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Impression Of Individuals Notes

Psychology Notes > Social Psychology (2nd year) Notes

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Impressions of individuals
Construction of Reality
Pervasiveness of Social Influence

What is real for us is shaped by cognitive processes and social processes
Other people influence virtually all of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviour, whether they are physically present or not

Valuing 'me and mine'
Superficiality versus depth

People strive to understand and predict events in the social world in order to obtain rewards
People seek support, liking and acceptance from people they care about and value
People desire to see themselves, and other people and groups connected to themselves, in a positive light
Individuals' and groups' views of the world are slow to change and prone to perpetuate themselves
Info that is most readily available has the most impact on thoughts,
feelings, and behaviour
People ordinarily put little effort into dealing with info, but at times are motivated to consider information in more depth

WHY do we form impressions?
Impressions guide our actions to meet our needs
Eg if we know somebody is hard working, we may ask them to be our study partner  impressions guide us along the paths of our social lives
Cues for impression formation
We believe that appearance, behaviour, and choices reflect personality, preferences and lifestyles
Walster et al., 'What is beautiful is good'
Appearance 1966
Randomly paired college men and women for an evening together
Researchers scored each student's attractiveness, social skills,
and had their grades/IQ/personality test scores
Physical attractiveness was the most important influence on satisfaction and increased likelihood for another date
Eagly & Makhijani, Attractive = interesting, warm, outgoing, socially skilled 1991
Clifford, 1975
School teachers rate more physically attractive children as having more intelligence and greater academic potential
Stewart, 1985
More attractive criminals are given lighter prison sentences
Todorov, 2009
In USA and Korea, baby-faced adult males were viewed as more naïve, honest, kind, and warm
Zebrowitz et al., Website with over 1 million faces  guess facts and political Impressions of individuals
Nonverbal communicatio n



Salient cues

1991 affiliation from photos = accuracy above chance
Info is communicated by facial expressions, eye contact, and body language
Friedman et al., We like those who express their feeling nonverbally more than 1988 less expressive people
Mehrabian, 1972
We like people who orient their bodies toward us and we believe they like us  unconscious
& We like those who look at us with dilated pupils - sign of interest
Cantor, 1986 and attention - unconscious
Ekman, 1987
Across many diverse cultures:
People express emotion with similar bodily postures and facial expressions
= emotional expression is a universal language
& Impressions can be accurate
Rosenthal, 1993 10secs of silent video of a teacher sufficient for impression formation
Impressions of the teacher matched those from the teachers'
Mast & Hall, 2004
Ps shown photos of an interaction between 2 co-workers
Ps could accurately judge which had the higher status
Zajonc, 1968
Mere exposure effect
Beach, 1992
Gosling et 2022


Women seen more often in college lecture are rated as more interesting/warm by students al., Ps observed college dorms but never met who lived there
Observers impressions were similar to how the occupant rated themselves
Similar accuracy found when observes looked at offices
'Behavioural residue'
Back et al., 2010
Ps looked at social-networking profiles
Their impressions of a person correlated highly with the users'
Eg if you know someone volunteers a lot you can conclude they are caring an altruistic
Characs that are different stand out eg rude, being tall, keeping snakes
Nelson & Miller, 1995:
Ps more likely to buy a skydiving related birthday present for a friend who is a skydiver and tennis player
 ie most distinct hobby is most salient and forms impression

How do we interpret cues? Impressions of individuals
 via an automatic process using stored knowledge which influences all of our social beliefs and behaviours
Gilbert, 1998: first impressions rely on rapid but effortless automatic cognitive processes 2 forms:
Association - prior knowledge of links between cognitive representations
Accessibility - the ease and speed with which knowledge comes to mind


Strong links between cognitive representations
 Think of one concept, the other is activated eg stealing (behaviour) and dishonesty (personality trait)
Can be:
 Similar in meaning eg sense of humour and laughter
 Repeatedly thought about together eg fish and chips
Rely on info which comes to mind easily and quickly
Ford & Thompson, 2000: the more accessible the knowledge, the more likely it will automatically come to mind, so the more likely it is to guide our interpretation of cues
Information can become accessible and influence interpretation of cues in 3 ways:
Simultaneous activation:
MOOD: Isen, 1987:
Happy people see their own and others' behaviour more positively  activates positive information
PHYSICAL SENSATION: Ackerman, Nocera, & Bargh, 2010:
Ps asked to judge a job candidate whose CV was on either a heavy or light clipboard
Those holding the heaving board judged the candidate as more serious about the job
 physical sensation of heaviness activates concepts of importance/seriousness
EXPECTATION: Kelley, 1950:
Students given background info on a guest lecturer before he arrived  diff students told diff things
Results clearly demonstrated the effects of expectation
Rosenhan, 1973:
Doctors expect the patients to display disturbed behaviour
Patients in a mental hospital even though they were healthy
Doctors did not detect they were healthy
CONTEXT: Carroll & Russell, 1996:
Ps showed phoots of people wearing ambiguous facial expressions in diff contexts
Funeral = Ps said he looked grief-stricken
Comedy show = tearful laughter
 context can override
Recent activation:

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