We were seated in a small dining room at our favourite South East Asian restaurant. A couple and their child sat down at the table next to us. We observed how the group was somewhat noisy.
Soon after they settled down, some strange music filled the dining room. The music was strange – it sounded nothing like the Thai / Vietnamese music that the restaurant usually played. We wondered where the music was coming from, and our suspicions went to the couple near us. We were quick to assume that they were the source of the strange music.
But as we got up to leave, I observed that the music came from the restaurant’s music system. I even tried to connect to that speaker via bluetooth to see if guests could connect to it (I couldn’t).
It should have been obvious that the music was played by the restaurant. But given that it was our favourite restaurant and where we were regulars here, our suspicion went instantly to the strangers at the next table. They were strangers, and the music was strange too. It was only after they came in that the music played. Therefore, there must be a connection.
Our minds are wired to think of ‘strangers’ as the source of our problems – foreigners, immigrants, refugees, people of another religion. This tendency makes us vulnerable to manipulation. We need to compensate for it by giving strangers the benefit of doubt.