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Human psychology

First impressions decided in one-tenth of a second

Thursday, August 24, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: human psychology, human behavior, health news


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(NewsTarget) A new study by researchers at Princeton University has found that people take just a tenth of a second to make character judgments about the people they meet.

The researchers showed 200 study participants photographs of people's faces, and asked them to rate the photos on attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence and aggression. The participants made up their minds about the people in the photos in 100 milliseconds -- one-tenth of a second -- and when given longer glances at the photos, people only became more convinced of their initial judgments, rather than correcting snap decisions. The participants' opinions were the same after a tenth of a second as after a half second or a whole second.

"We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them," says Alex Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology at Princeton. "It appears we are hard-wired to draw these inferences in a fast, unreflective way."

The researchers concluded that only long experiences with people can remove first impressions or snap judgments. Todorov suggests that quick judgments of trustworthiness may be a reflection of activity in the part of the brain responsible for feelings of fear.

"The link between facial features and character may be tenuous at best, but that doesn't stop our minds from sizing other people up at a glance," says Todorov.

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