First Appearance Deceives Many

Kevin Lewis

September 28, 2009

Professed impressions: What people say about others affects onlookers' perceptions of speakers' power and warmth

Daniel Ames, Emily Bianchi & Joe Magee
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

During a conversation, it is common for a speaker to describe a third-party that the listener does not know. These professed impressions not only shape the listener's view of the third-party but also affect judgments of the speaker herself. We propose a previously unstudied consequence of professed impressions: judgments of the speaker's power. In two studies, we find that listeners ascribe more power to speakers who profess impressions focusing on a third-party's conscientiousness, compared to those focusing on agreeableness. We also replicate previous research showing that speakers saying positive things about third parties are seen as more agreeable than speakers saying negative things. In the second study, we demonstrate that conscientiousness-power effects are mediated by inferences about speakers' task concerns and positivity-agreeableness effects are mediated by inferences about speakers' other-enhancing concerns. Finally, we show that judgments of speaker status parallel judgments of agreeableness rather than of power, suggesting that perceivers use different processes to make inferences about status and power. These findings have implications for the literatures on person perception, power, and status.


Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance

Laura Naumann, Simine Vazire, Peter Rentfrow & Samuel Gosling
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming

Despite the crucial role of physical appearance in forming first impressions, little research has examined the accuracy of personality impressions based on appearance alone. This study examined the accuracy of observers' impressions on 10 personality traits based on full-body photographs using criterion measures based on self and peer reports. When targets' posture and expression were constrained (standardized condition), observers' judgments were accurate for extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity. When targets were photographed with a spontaneous pose and facial expression (spontaneous condition), observers' judgments were accurate for almost all of the traits examined. Lens model analyses demonstrated that both static cues (e.g., clothing style) and dynamic cues (e.g., facial expression, posture) offered valuable personality-relevant information. These results suggest that personality is manifested through both static and expressive channels of appearance, and observers use this information to form accurate judgments for a variety of traits.


When the Referee Sees Red...

Norbert Hagemann, Bernd Strauss & Jan Leißing
Psychological Science, August 2008, Pages 769-771

"We investigated the effect of the color of the protective gear (trunk and head protectors) in tae kwon do on the decisions of referees. A total of 42 experienced referees (13 female, 29 male; mean age = 29.31 years, SD= 10.56; mean experience as a referee = 8.02 years, SD= 6.27) individually watched videotaped excerpts from sparring rounds of five different male competitors of similar abilities...We reversed the colors using digital graphics, animation, and image-compositing software (Adobe After Effects 7.0)...The competitor wearing red protective gear was awarded an average of 13% (0.94 points) more points than the competitor wearing blue protective gear, t(41) = 2.85, p < .01, d= 0.35."


Father-offspring resemblance predicts paternal investment in humans

Alexandra Alvergne, Charlotte Faurie & Michel Raymond
Animal Behaviour, July 2009, Pages 61-69

In species in which paternal care of offspring is important but paternity is uncertain, evolutionary theory suggests that kin recognition mechanisms (e.g. phenotype matching) should evolve. Fathers are expected to discriminate between their children and others' on the basis of phenotypic similarities, and they should allocate resources accordingly. However, studies showing that males assess paternity by phenotype matching are rare. In a polygynous human population of rural Senegal, we examined the relationships between (1) actual father-child resemblance through both the facial and the olfactory phenotypes; (2) fathers' investment of resources in each child; and (3) child nutritional condition. We found that paternal investment was positively related to both face and odour similarities between fathers and children. Additionally, such discriminative paternal investment was linked to the children's health: children who received more investment had better growth and nutritional status. This is the first evidence that paternal investment is associated with father-child resemblance in real human families, and, furthermore, that these discrepancies in paternal investment result in differences in fitness-related traits in children.


Self-Symbols as Implicit Motivators

Rob Holland, Annemarie Wennekers, Gijsbert Bijlstra, Maaike Jongenelen & Ad van Knippenberg
Social Cognition, August 2009, Pages 579-600

The present research explored the nonconscious motivational influence of self-symbols. In line with recent findings on the motivational influence of positive affect, we hypothesized that positive affect associated with self-symbols may boost motivation. In Study 1 people drank more of a beverage when the brand name contained name letters. Study 2 emphasized central aspects of motivation, and tested the role of implicit self-esteem. High self-esteem people persisted longer and performed better on a name letter task than low self-esteem people. Study 3 further confirmed these results, testing persistence on an unsolvable puzzle. These findings are explained by the association of self-symbols with positive affect for high self-esteem people. Implications are discussed for the role of self in motivation.


The Color of Sin: White and Black Are Perceptual Symbols of Moral Purity and Pollution

Gary Sherman & Gerald Clore
Psychological Science, August 2009, Pages 1019-1025

Three studies examined automatic associations between words with moral and immoral meanings and the colors black and white. The speed of color naming in a Stroop task was faster when words in black concerned immorality (e.g., greed), rather than morality, and when words in white concerned morality (e.g., honesty), rather than immorality. In addition, priming immorality by having participants hand-copy an unethical statement speeded identification of words in the black font. Making immorality salient in this way also increased the moral Stroop effect among participants who had not previously shown it. In the final study, participants also rated consumer products. Moral meanings interfered with color naming most strongly among those participants who rated personal cleaning products as especially desirable. The moderation of the moral Stroop effect by individual differences in concerns about personal cleanliness suggests that ideas about purity and pollution are central to seeing morality in black and white.


I'll Have What She's Having: Effects of Social Influence and Body Type on the Food Choices of Others

Brent McFerran, Darren Dahl, Gavan Fitzsimons & Andrea Morales
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

This research examines how the body type of consumers affects the food consumption of other consumers around them. We find that consumers anchor on the quantities others around them select but that these portions are adjusted according to the body type of the other consumer. We find that people choose a larger portion following another consumer who first selects a large quantity but that this portion is significantly smaller if the other is obese than if she is thin. We also find that the adjustment is more pronounced for consumers who are low in appearance self‐esteem and that it is attenuated under cognitive load.


Actor-observer differences in frequency-of-use estimates: Sometimes strangers know us better than ourselves

Jeffrey Vietri, Gretchen Chapman & Janet Schwartz
Social Influence, October 2009, Pages 298-311

People make optimistic predictions about themselves; they expect relationships to last longer, tasks to take less time, and things to turn out generally better than they will. In contrast, predictions about others are more realistic, but lack discriminatory power. We investigated first- and third-party predictions for holiday gifts, and how the actor's own prediction influences the observer's prediction. As expected, actors' predictions were optimistic but showed discrimination, while observer accuracy depended on access to the actor's prediction. Observers who saw the actor's prediction showed no optimism but similar discrimination, while other observers showed an optimistic bias but no discrimination. These results suggest that predictions allow efficient use of an anchor-and-adjust strategy, while their absence leads observers to use projection.


My Friend Is Embarrassing Me: Exploring the Guilty by Association Effect

Jennifer Fortune & Ian Newby-Clark
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, December 2008, Pages 1440-1449

It is contended that people (known here as associates) erroneously believe that their social standing suffers when people with whom they are associated (offenders) act in socially inappropriate ways. Accordingly, the anticipated evaluations of associates and observers were contrasted in 6 studies. Study 1 participants read a second-person scenario from the perspective of an associate or an observer. Associates anticipated that observers would give them less positive ratings when the offender picked his or her nose (versus control), but observers' ratings were unaffected. In Study 2, associates erroneously anticipated that observers' ratings of them would vary systematically as a function of whether or not they were introduced as friends of an offender who had/had not committed academic misconduct. In Study 3, anticipated ratings of associates were negatively affected by the actions of an offender whom they did not know previously. Study 4 showed that perspective-taking is the key to attenuating the effect and reducing feelings of embarrassment. The last 2 studies clarified the role of physical proximity and felt closeness. Consistent with results of a scenario study (Study 5), Study 6 participants' anticipated ratings were negatively affected by a combination of increased physical proximity and felt closeness.


Attractiveness qualifies the effect of observation on trusting behavior in an economic game

Finlay Smith, Lisa Debruine, Benedict Jones, Daniel Brian Krupp, Lisa Welling & Claire Conway
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Recent studies show that subtle cues of observation affect cooperation even when anonymity is explicitly assured. For instance, recent studies have shown that the presence of eyes increases cooperation on social economic tasks. Here, we tested the effects of cues of observation on trusting behavior in a two-player Trust game and the extent to which these effects are qualified by participants' own attractiveness. Although explicit cues of being observed (i.e., when participants were informed that the other player would see their face) tended to increase trusting behavior, this effect was qualified by the participants' other-rated attractiveness (estimated from third-party ratings of face photographs). Participants' own physical attractiveness was positively correlated with the extent to which they trusted others more when they believed they could be seen than when they believed they could not be seen. This interaction between cues of observation and own attractiveness suggests context dependence of trusting behavior that is sensitive to whether and how others react to one's physical appearance.


The evolution of information suppression in communicating robots with conflicting interests

Sara Mitri, Dario Floreano & Laurent Keller
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 15 September 2009, Pages 15786-15790

Reliable information is a crucial factor influencing decision-making and, thus, fitness in all animals. A common source of information comes from inadvertent cues produced by the behavior of conspecifics. Here we use a system of experimental evolution with robots foraging in an arena containing a food source to study how communication strategies can evolve to regulate information provided by such cues. The robots could produce information by emitting blue light, which the other robots could perceive with their cameras. Over the first few generations, the robots quickly evolved to successfully locate the food, while emitting light randomly. This behavior resulted in a high intensity of light near food, which provided social information allowing other robots to more rapidly find the food. Because robots were competing for food, they were quickly selected to conceal this information. However, they never completely ceased to produce information. Detailed analyses revealed that this somewhat surprising result was due to the strength of selection on suppressing information declining concomitantly with the reduction in information content. Accordingly, a stable equilibrium with low information and considerable variation in communicative behaviors was attained by mutation selection. Because a similar coevolutionary process should be common in natural systems, this may explain why communicative strategies are so variable in many animal species.

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