Collective suggestion

La Voz de Galicia – December 1st, 2017 →

Cristina Pato
A Bluetooth smaller than my phone goes everywhere with me. I download podcasts and listen to them according to the day. I like the loudspeaker because it fills the room in which I sleep tonight: making it sound like home, it helps me remember my mother’s day-to-day in the kitchen when the radio was turned on and silence was a must. I grew up listening as obituaries on the radio intermingled with the vapor of boiling pots and the smell of cocido (Galician stew) on the fire.

In a podcast that keeps me company during one lonely breakfast, Claude Steele, an American social psychologist who researched for years the impact of stereotypes in the academic world, was speaking. When Steele discussed the concept of the “threat of the stereotype,” he made me think about the daily stereotypes we inhabit and impose on others without even realizing it. These stereotypes take such root in our way of thinking that we end up believing that a woman is the weaker sex or that she is worse in math (this was one of Mr. Steele’s experiments).

I turned off the radio and left the house. I was on my way to the consulate of country X to request a visa, and I called my husband before going in. Almost without meaning to, he reminded me that the last time I had been at that consulate I had ended up in a hospital. I laughed and hung up, but the truth is that this suggestion left its mark. Even though I was not sick, during the next two hours while I waited for my turn at the consulate, my body began to hurt everywhere. And then I thought: if an unconscious autosuggestion can do this to one’s body, what are we doing with our perception of others?… In the end, stereotypes are nothing more than a collective suggestion.

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