Resiliency of First Impressions Based on Negative and Positive Visual Information

Topics: Scientific method, Function, Prefrontal cortex Pages: 10 (3444 words) Published: June 6, 2012
Resiliency of First Impressions Based on Negative and Positive Visual Information Eric Harvey
University of Texas at Austin

Author Note
Eric Harvey, undergraduate, department of psychology, University of Texas at Austin. Correspondence concerning this article should be directed to Eric Harvey. Contact:

This study examines the relative resilience of negative and positive impressions formed using visual information. Previous studies such as that done by Richey, Mcclelland, and Shimkunas (1967) have indicated stronger resilience of negative impressions formed by reading textual descriptions, while Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer and Vohs (2001) have indicated that a negativity bias exists in many cognitive functions. The present study examines the extent to which the negativity bias extends to situations where participants form their opinions solely on the information provided in an image, and finds evidence that the bias does exist in a particular visual judgment used in the study while failing to find evidence in other judgments. Keywords: impression, positive, negative

Resiliency of First Impressions Based on Negative and Positive Visual Information Greg is set to meet his fiance's father for the first time. His nerves boil up as he considers seeking her father's approval, who is a severe, scowling, judgmental man. The rest of Garry's marriage will be affected by this relationship. He must do well. So, he succumbs to compulsive attempts to impress the father and this results in comical failure. This is the plot of Meet the Parents. The popularity of this drama, and the palpable tension of the short plot summary, underscore our shared concern for first impressions. But are bad first impressions really that hard to change? The present study aims to analyze that question by expanding on earlier research. Prior studies have indeed found negative impressions to be particularly strong. Richey, Mcclelland, and Shimkunas (1967) studied the relative strengths of positive and negative information on impressions by providing subjects with textual descriptions of hypothetical characters, followed by contradictory information. Subjects were asked to rate their impressions after each information treatment. They manipulated presentation order so that one group received positive and then negative information and the other vis versa. The researchers found that negative information exhibited greater impact on subjects' impressions in two ways. Negative subsequent information influenced initial ratings of impression to a greater extent than positive subsequent information. Also, negative initial impressions returned back to negative levels after being positively influenced by subsequent information while positive initial impressions showed no such return. However some researchers believe that other variables besides positivity and negativity are the primary influences on impressions. Anderson (1968) found a primacy affect of information in impression formation due to subsequent contradictory information being somewhat distrusted. The absence of the primacy effect with non-contradictory information supported this idea. In a study on his theory of an “averaging model” of stimuli, Anderson provided subjects with sets of similar adjectives differentiated by value e.g. three adjectives positive to varying degrees. The primacy effect was apparent in sets where subsequent words contradicted earlier words but not in sets where no contradiction was presented. That the primacy affect was found in contradictory serial testing but not in harmonious serial testing indicates the role of contradiction in producing the primacy effect. However, many other studies highlighted the relative importance of negative information on impressions and in other cognitive functions. Hamiliton and Zana (1972) theorized that negative information exerts greater influence on impressions because it provides...
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