Very First Impressions

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First impressions of people's personalities are often formed by using the visual appearance of their faces. Defining how quickly these impressions can be formed has critical implications for understanding social interactions and for determining the visual properties used to shape them. To study impression formation independent of emotional cues, threat judgments were made on faces with a neutral expression. Consequently, participants' judgments pertained to the personality rather than to a certain temporary emotional state (e.g., anger). The results demonstrate that consistent first impressions can be formed very quickly, based on whatever information is available within the first 39 ms. First impressions were less consistent under these conditions when the judgments were about intelligence, suggesting that survival-related traits are judged more quickly. The authors propose that low spatial frequencies mediate this swift formation of threat judgments and provide evidence that supports this hypothesis.

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