When we’re born, we come pre-equipped with some pretty impressive cognitive hardware. One of the many things our brain is designed to do is form quick judgments about other people we meet for the first time.
Over the course of our evolutionary history there’s been a benefit to being able to quickly discern the motives of new human beings we come across. The problem is that the heuristics (cognitive shortcuts) we use to make these judgments aren’t always accurate. Our brain can get fooled, can treat friends as foes or vice versa.
Race is a prime example. A bunch of research has shown that the race of people we meet influences how we perceive and judge them. Over at BPS Research Digest (which recently got a nice redesign), Christian Jarrett reports on an interesting new study in Motivation and Emotion which adds a nice drop of complexity to the science of gut-level racial judgements.
The research team, led by Nicole Senft at Georgetown University, asked 93 undergrad students to look at a series of photographs of faces and for each one to rate the person’s personality based purely on looking at the photograph.