Mixed Impressions: How We Judge Others on Multiple Levels


A few contrastive articles on how we percieve ‘others’ unconsciously in those initial moments of encountering a person.


Researchers are developing a new understanding of how we judge people. By Marina Krakovsky, Scientific American

Excerpt from ScientificAmerican.com

We’ve all heard that people favor their own kind and discriminate against out-groups—but that’s a simplistic view of prejudice, says Amy Cuddy, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies how we judge others. In recent years she and psychologists Susan Fiske of Princeton University and Peter Glick of Lawrence University have developed a powerful new model. All over the world, it turns out, people judge others on two main qualities: warmth (whether they are friendly and well intentioned) and competence (whether they have the ability to deliver on those intentions).….

When we meet a person, we immediately and often unconsciously assess him or her for both warmth and competence. Whereas we obviously admire and help people who are both warm and competent and feel and act contemptuously toward the cold and incompetent, we respond ambivalently toward the other blends. People who are judged as competent but cold—including those in stereotyped groups such as Jews, Asians and the wealthy—provoke envy and a desire to harm, as violence against these groups has often shown. And people usually seen as warm but incompetent, such as mothers and the elderly, elicit pity and benign neglect.

New research is revealing that these split-second judgments are often wrong, however, because they rely on crude stereotypes and other mental shortcuts. Last year psychologist Nicolas Kervyn and his colleagues published studies showing how we jump to conclusions about people’s competence based on their warmth, and vice versa. When the researchers showed participants facts about two groups of people, one warm and one cold, the participants tended to assume that the warm group was less competent than the cold group; likewise, if participants knew one group to be competent and the other not, they asked questions whose answers confirmed their hunch that the first group was cold and the second warm. The upshot: “Your gain on one [trait] can be your loss on the other,” says Kervyn, now a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton. Continue to read…

From an NLP perspective, we would probably say that this is a little prescriptive, and would warrant careful review and to understand where the data is coming from. The unconscious part we study and the speed at which it happens is most likely consistent with our findings.

Interestingly, another article of Amy’s is not so prescriptive – Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb and only ask’s the question – What are this person’s intentions toward me? and Is this person capable of acting on those intentions? These seem a little more accurate and less ‘content’ having dropped the ‘warmth’ qualifier.

The article goes on to say that… New research is revealing that these split-second judgments are often wrong, however, because they rely on crude stereotypes and other mental shortcuts.

See their journal article A Model of (Often Mixed) Stereotype Content: Competence and Warmth Respectively Follow From Perceived Status and Competition.

Amy Cuddy‘s research falls into several overlapping areas, including intergroup relations (stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination), emotion, culture, and nonverbal behavior. Just Because I’m Nice, Don’t Assume I’m Dumb
Harvard Business Review: Breakthrough Ideas of 2009.


Psychologists are finding that our first impressions of others can be remarkably accurate--but also can fail us.
For the past several years, bars and restaurants around the country have been hosting a new type of dating ritual. At events organized by companies like HurryDate and 8MinuteDating, dozens of eligible singles meet up for a round of lightning-quick "dates"--sometimes as short as three minutes each--with 10 or 20 other people. At the end of each date, participants mark on a card whether or not they'd like to see the other person again. When the evening is over, event staff correlate the results and provide contact information to any mutually interested pair. The speed-dating concept rests on a simple premise: that a few minutes can be plenty of time to size a person up and evaluate compatibility.

In ‘Thin slices’ of life – Psychologists are finding that our first impressions of others can be remarkably accurate–but also can fail us. By LEA WINERMAN,
Monitor Staff, March 2005, Vol 36, No. 3 Print version: page 54 Monitor

Excerpt from Monitor – a publication by the American Psychological Association. The APA is a scientific and professional organization that represents psychology in the United States. With 150,000 members, APA is the largest association of psychologists worldwide.

“There was no significant difference between the results with 30-second clips and six-second clips,” Ambady says.

In a later experiment in the same study, she cut out the middleman–the global variable–and simply asked students to rate, based on thin-slice video clips, the quality and performance of the teachers. Again, the ratings correlated highly with the teachers’ end-of-semester evaluations. Ambady also replicated her results with high school teachers.

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