“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
This, my friends, is called “the duck test” and it is one of the biggest pieces of crap advice in existence.
The duck test implies that anyone – you, me, that guy on the bench over there, that any of us can identify a heretofore unknown subject by observing that subject’s habitual characteristics; that by perceiving its form we can make an educated guess as to what it is; what it is for or (and this is the part that really ticks me off) its motives and thought process.
Now mind you, I won’t argue that a quacking, paddling, feather wrapped avian with a bill and webbed feet is probably a member of the Anatidae family, but I have just enough common sense to realize that it might be something else entirely, perhaps a species of bird I have never seen before, or even something totally non-duck, like a decoy, an animatronic creation or even a holographic image. And I am certainly not going to assume that just because it registers with my brain as a “duck” that I know the first thing about WHY it is doing what it is doing, or what it plans on doing next.
It all comes down to the fact that when it comes to perception and understanding, most of us are lazy. We would rather glance at the object, register it as a duck, then quickly tuck it into the pigeon hole in our brain labeled “ducks and duck-like behavior” and simply forget about it. Not important. We are now free to move along to more important things. Like what we’re going to have for supper and the most recent celebrity drama.
While the duck test may be useful when it comes to sorting through not so important things, thus freeing up the brain for more important matters, it is far too often used by those of little understanding to explain why it is that an individual has chosen a particular course of action.
Instead of stopping to consider all of the possible reasons and giving the individual the benefit of the doubt, the duck test allows the one sitting in judgement of the person’s actions to make broad, sweeping assumptions based on that person’s past behavior or even assumptions of their past behaviors. They use these assumptions to give their world definition; to make certain that everything inside of it is neat and tidy and precisely categorized. The end result being that the person whose actions are being judged gets labeled a duck when really they are a wolf, or a dolphin, or even a lion.
Of course when the individual passing judgement is presented with the truth of the person or thing their preconceived ideas tend to get in the way and prevent them from seeing it (or them) as anything other than what they have convinced themselves it is.
Far far better to take the time initially to see a thing – an idea – a belief or even a person for exactly who and what they really are than to be rudely awakened latter on. It will of course when you’ve convinced yourself that the lion penned up in your barnyard is really a duck it comes as a great shock when it suddenly shakes out its mane, lets out a roar and eats your ducks for lunch.