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First Impressions

December 30, 2009

First impressions of someone’s personality based on a photograph alone can be surprisingly accurate.


Trusting first impressions…I’m Bob Hirshon, and this is Science Update.

They say "Don’t judge a book by its cover," but social psychologist Sam Gosling of the University of Texas, Austin wanted to know if we can form accurate impressions of people based on a photograph alone. He and his colleagues took both candid and posed photos of volunteers, and assessed their personalities. They then asked strangers to look at the photos. Their first impressions turned out to be a surprisingly accurate reflection of what the volunteers were really like.
SAM GOSLING (University of Texas, Austin):
They’re not perfect, but they’re a whole lot better than chance, especially for traits like extraversion. You could even judge traits like people’s openness and their likeability and their self-esteem, even those sorts of things came through just from photographs.
He says people were much better at accurately assessing personality from candid photos than from posed ones. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.