11/24/2009 09:08 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The ASS and the Armpit

Look closely at the following photo:

If you noticed the buttock of the girl in the background, you are probably thinking:

Female: Rick, you pervert! Has this blog reached a new low (and was that even possible)?

Male: he he...BUTT...he friends...he he

Other: Wow, what a pretty gray top! (perhaps it's best if you stop reading here...)

Well, you might want to make an appointment with your eye doctor, because it is actually THE SHOULDER OF THE GIRL WHO IS TAKING THE PHOTO!

Hmmm....whose face is red now?

Once we are made aware that this is a merely a shoulder, we can see it very clearly - as clearly as we first perceived the buttock. So, why when given the choice between an ordinary shoulder and thoroughly cheeky nudity, do our brains nosedive straight to the gutter?

The reason has to do with something known as the Contrast Principle, which holds that we make judgments largely through comparison, and in so doing, we selectively look to the extremes. In effect, we clear out the middle, and push all comparisons out to the edge. This is our brain's way of increasing our confidence in decision making.

But, by pushing comparisons out to the edge, we are quick to look to the extremes first, and this predisposition often has unintended consequences.

We are drawn to sensational news stories more than the news that directly impacts us.

We are reluctant to approach the prettiest/handsomest among us, and they are left dateless.

We react irrationally to sales and scarcity.

And, we unnecessarily discount our potential. We perceive the difference between us and those who have achieved extraordinary lives and careers to be a yawning chasm, when in most cases it is not nearly so formidable. Our brains lead us to the extreme, and we are left feeling disheartened and helpless to achieve similar success.

Rather than embrace the very real potential of positive, dramatic change, we silence the aspirations within ourselves.

So the next time you are quick to assume that you are less talented and less capable than others, remember this: you are likely not the Ass you first perceive yourself to be.

Don't miss next week's blog post: Nice Tweets! Should You Feel Guilty Using Them to Get Followers?

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