Monday, February 14, 2011

How We Judge

Eric Barker points to a study from Psychological Science:
People often draw trait inferences from the facial appearance of other people. We investigated the minimal conditions under which people make such inferences. In five experiments, each focusing on a specific trait judgment, we manipulated the exposure time of unfamiliar faces. Judgments made after a 100-ms exposure correlated highly with judgments made in the absence of time constraints, suggesting that this exposure time was sufficient for participants to form an impression. In fact, for all judgments—attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness—increased exposure time did not significantly increase the correlations. When exposure time increased from 100 to 500 ms, participants' judgments became more negative, response times for judgments decreased, and confidence in judgments increased. When exposure time increased from 500 to 1,000 ms, trait judgments and response times did not change significantly (with one exception), but confidence increased for some of the judgments; this result suggests that additional time may simply boost confidence in judgments. However, increased exposure time led to more differentiated person impressions. 
Source: "First Impressions Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face" from Psychological Science   
This is consistent with what Dan Gilbert says about how people make judgments: rather than gathering as much information as we can then evaluating that information and forming an opinion, we judge based on our initial emotional reaction, then look for evidence to support our initial judgment. This also makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: when our utmost concern is our immediate survival, we make split-second decisions on what we need to do before we make a decision on what the situation is.

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