Week 5: Social Perception: How We Come to Understand Other People
We make judgments about other people (e.g., are they smart, sweet, successful, and likeable or arrogant, selfish, and superficial) based on limited exposure in a social context. We seldom take into account the situational factors that may have influenced someone’s behavior previous to or during that brief exposure.
Imagine your friend Roxy arranged a get-together with her coworkers and invited you to join them. You have always enjoyed meeting new people, so this seemed like a nice opportunity. The plan was to meet for drinks at a neighborhood bar where introductions are made all around. You were sitting next to Julie, so it seemed natural to strike up a conversation with her. However, she was not at all friendly, hardly responding to your attempts at getting to know her. Though you thought she might become a new friend, your first impression suggested otherwise.
Roxy called you the next day to ask if you had a good time. You mentioned how cold and unfriendly Julie was and that you were disappointed in a lost opportunity to make a new friend. Roxy said Julie was not herself that night; her mother had passed away the previous week and Roxy had convinced Julie that a night out with friends was just what she needed. You might feel the need to reevaluate your first impression. Roxy asked that you give her friend another chance and meet for lunch a few weeks later.
Were it not for Roxy’s explanation of Julie’s unfriendly behavior, you might never have agreed to meet them for lunch. Fortunately, you did, and Julie is now a good friend of yours.
This week, you will examine why first impressions can form so quickly and last for so long. You will also study the motivations people have for behaving the way they do.
Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., Akert, R. M., & Sommers, S. R. (Eds.). (2019). Social psychology (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Dexter, H. R., Penrod, S., Linz, D., & Saunders, D. (2006). Attributing responsibility to female victims after exposure to sexually violent films. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27(24), 2149–2171.
Attributing responsibility to female victims after exposure to sexually violent films by Dexter, H. R., Penrod, S., Linz, D., & Saunders, D., in Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 27/Issue 24. Copyright 2006 by Blackwell Publishing Inc. Reprinted by permission of Blackwell Publishing Inc. via the Copyright Clearance Center.
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