The Different Ways We Evaluate People

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Evaluation and Judgment Checkpoint

Evaluation and Judgment Checkpoint
Question One: What are the different ways in which we evaluate people?

When we meet someone for the first time, we notice a number of surface characteristics—clothes, gestures, manner of speaking, tone of voice, appearance, and so on. Then, drawing on these cues, we assign the person a ready-made category. Associated with each category is a schema (plural: schemata), which, is a set of beliefs or expectations about something (in this case, people) that is based on past experience and is presumed to apply to all members of that category (Fiske & Taylor, 1991). Schemata serve a number of important functions (Gilbert, 1998). First, they allow us to make inferences about other people. We assume, for example, that a friendly person is likely to be good-natured, to accept a social invitation from us, or to do us a small favor. Second, schemata play a crucial role in how we interpret and remember information. Schemata can also lure us into “remembering” things about people that we never actually observed. Most of us associate the traits of shyness, quietness, and preoccupation with one’s own thoughts with the schema introvert.

Question Two: How do these factors play a role in our expectations of other people? Over time, as we continue to interact with people, we add new information about them to our mental files. However, our later experiences generally do not influence us nearly so much as our earliest impressions. This is known as the primacy effect. According to Susan Fiske and Shelley Taylor (1991), they point out that human thinkers are “cognitive misers.” Instead of exerting ourselves to interpret every detail we learn about a person, we are stingy with our mental efforts. Once we have formed an impression about someone, we tend to keep it, even if our first impressions were formed by jumping to conclusions or through prejudice (Fiske, 1995). Thus, if you...
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