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  • Imagine you're at a football game

  • when this obnoxious guy sits next to you.

  • He's loud, he spills his drink on you, and he makes fun of your team.

  • Days later, you're walking in the park

  • when suddenly it starts to pour rain.

  • Who should show up at your side

  • to offer you an umbrella?

  • The same guy from the football game.

  • Do you change your mind about him

  • based on this second encounter?

  • Or do you go with your first impression and write him off?

  • Research in social psychology suggests

  • that we're quick to form lasting impressions of others based on their behaviors.

  • We manage to do this with little effort,

  • inferring stable character traits

  • from a single behavior,

  • like a harsh word

  • or a clumsy step.

  • Using our impressions as guides,

  • we can accurately predict

  • how people are going to behave in the future.

  • Armed with the knowledge

  • the guy from the football game

  • was a jerk the first time you met him,

  • you might expect more of the same down the road.

  • If so, you might choose to avoid him

  • the next time you see him.

  • That said, we can change our impressions in light of new information.

  • Behavioral researchers have identified

  • consistent patterns that seem to guide

  • this process of impression updating.

  • On one hand, learning very negative,

  • highly immoral information about someone

  • typically has a stronger impact than learning very positive, highly moral information.

  • So, unfortunately for our new friend

  • from the football game,

  • his bad behavior at the game

  • might outweigh his good behavior at the park.

  • Research suggests that this bias occurs because immoral behaviors are more diagnostic or revealing of a person's true character.

  • Okay, so by this logic,

  • bad is always stronger than good

  • when it comes to updating.

  • Well, not necessarily.

  • Certain types of learning don't seem to lead

  • to this sort of negativity bias.

  • When learning about another person's abilities and competencies, for instance,

  • this bias flips.

  • It's actually the positive information

  • that gets weighted more heavily.

  • Let's go back to that football game.

  • If a player scores a goal,

  • it ultimately has a stronger impact

  • on your impression of their skills

  • than if they miss the net.

  • The two sides of the updating story

  • are ultimately quite consistent.

  • Overall, behaviors that are perceived

  • as being less frequent are also the ones that people tend to weigh more heavily when forming and updating impressions,

  • highly immoral actions and highly competent actions.

  • So, what's happening at the level of the brain

  • when we're updating our impressions?

  • Using fMRI,

  • or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging,

  • researchers have identified

  • an extended network of brain regions

  • that respond to new information

  • that's inconsistent with initial impressions.

  • These include areas typically associated

  • with social cognition,

  • attention,

  • and cognitive control.

  • Moreover, when updating impressions

  • based on people's behaviors,

  • activity in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex

  • and the superior temporal sulcus

  • correlates with perceptions

  • of how frequently those behaviors occur in daily life.

  • In other words, the brain seems to be tracking

  • low-level, statistical properties of behavior

  • in order to make complex decisions

  • regarding other people's character.

  • It needs to decide

  • is this person's behavior typical

  • or is it out of the ordinary?

  • In the situation with the obnoxious-football-fan-turned-good-samaritan, your brain says, "Well, in my experience, pretty much anyone would lend someone their umbrella, but the way this guy acted at the football game, that was unusual."

  • And so, you decide to go with your first impression.

  • There's a good moral in this data:

  • your brain, and by extension you,

  • might care more about

  • the very negative, immoral things

  • another person has done

  • compared to the very positive, moral things,

  • but it's a direct result

  • of the comparative rarity of those bad behaviors.

  • We're more used to people being basically good,

  • like taking time to help a stranger in need.

  • In this context, bad might be stronger than good,

  • but only because good is more plentiful.

  • Think about the last time you judged someone

  • based on their behavior,

  • especially a time when you really feel

  • like you changed your mind about someone.

  • Was the behavior that caused you

  • to update your impression

  • something you'd expect anyone to do,

  • or was it something totally out of the ordinary?

Imagine you're at a football game

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B1 US TED-Ed football game football impression behavior immoral

【TED-Ed】Should you trust your first impression? - Peter Mende-Siedlecki

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    VoiceTube posted on 2015/03/24
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