The search for the right lunch table: why finding familiarity is comforting

screenshot taken from statistics in article by author

By Starr Lewis ’18

Please note that these articles ONLY reflect the viewpoints of those who wrote the article. These articles do not reflect of the views of the newspaper advisor, The Pritzker Press, Pritzker College Prep, or the Noble Network.

What is it about finding the right table to sit at lunch during your freshman year? It’s the most valuable part about your day when you are a high school student, more specifically a high school freshman. Making friends is important and so is finding that perfect spot to sit at when you’re at lunch.

A student walks into a lunchroom that is predominantly a race other than their own. The first thing they do is look for a group of students that look “familiar”. This is the “ familiarity heuristic.” This concept is that what is familiar is favored over anything else: people, places, things.

In “Why Are All The Black Students Sitting Together In The Cafeteria” , for instance, uncovers the answer to this question through defining racism and the developments of racial discrimination. However, the ways in which familiarity heuristic works is more of a social issue than a racial issue.

As the “familiarity heuristic” suggest, we gravitate to what is familiar to us before we try something new. In high school, social life is important- besides a school being academically secure- the social environment is what keeps a student engaged and consistently at school.

If we can all take a moment to think about our high school career as is or as it once was, we would all think that we came to school not just because we had to but because we got to see our friends, hang out, and of course have our lunch time conversations. Because of these interactions, we find the table with students that look like us because we find comfort in seeing familiarity and seeing other students that are Black or Latino because then we won’t feel judged.

In addition to gravitating to what is familiar being a reason, comfort is also a reason. How many times do well feel uncomfortable and just wish that we had someone that would relate or be on the same page as us. Our social demographic at Pritzker consist of 95% Latino/Hispanic 4% African American and 1% White. What does a Black student do when he or she walks in to lunch and find this the most difficult part: finding the right table to sit at.