Members in the Media
From: Scientific American

Bad First Impressions Are Not Set in Stone

Common wisdom holds that negative first impressions are hard to shake—and some research backs this up. But such studies often unfairly compare impressions based on immoral deeds that are extreme and relatively rare (such as selling drugs to kids) with impressions based on kindnesses that are more common (such as sharing an umbrella). A new set of studies involving precisely balanced behaviors finds that people are more willing to change their mind about individuals who initially come off as selfish than about those they deem selfless.

In three of the experiments, 336 laboratory and online participants read about two people who each made a series of 50 decisions regarding how many electric shocks to give someone in exchange for money. One fictional subject required more money per shock than the average person did to inflict pain on others. The other’s price-per-shock threshold was comparably lower than the average person’s. Study participants read about each subject’s decisions one at a time. Before seeing each decision, they predicted what it would be. After every three decisions the fictional subject made, participants rated the individual on a scale from “nasty” to “nice,” then specified their confidence in the rating.

As expected, participants rated the person who gave shocks for a lower price as nastier than the higher-price shocker. But they expressed less confidence in the “nasty” ratings, and their predictions of how many shocks that person would give fluctuated more. In other words, their beliefs about the “bad” subject were more changeable. “A well-designed brain system would not write someone off completely at the first sign of trouble,” says Molly Crockett, a psychologist at Yale University, who co-authored a paper about the new set of studies, published in October in Nature Human Behaviour. An open mind helps people forgive and form bonds, Crockett adds.

Read the whole story: Scientific American

More of our Members in the Media >


APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.