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Snap Judgments

September 11, 2006

First impressions are important, and new research shows we form them with remarkable speed.


Clocking first impressions. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Like it or not, we all judge people by their faces: not just on attractiveness, but also trustworthiness, competence, and likeability. Princeton University psychologists Alexander Todorov and Janine Willis found that people made these judgments after seeing a face for just a tenth of a second, and that their opinions didn’t change if they were given more time. Todorov says it’s possible to override these snap judgments with objective information.

ALEXANDER TODOROV (Princeton University):
The question is that in many important contexts, you might not have the chance to collect the additional information. This is a potential problem.

What’s more, people sometimes make up their minds before seeking out the facts – in contexts ranging from singles bars to job interviews to elections.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.