What We're Up To | Some current PROJECTS

Here's a sample of the kinds of questions we're currently exploring in the ICE Lab.

Photo by praisaeng/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by praisaeng/iStock / Getty Images

To what extent can we update (implicit) first impressions?

A common adage suggests that you "never get a second chance to make a good first impression." To what extent do first impressions linger and to what extent can they be successfully updated as we encounter new information about someone? In particular, what happens to our implicit and explicit evaluations of someone when we encounter information that is inconsistent with what we have already learned about him or her? We might learn that someone that we thought was likeable and charming is actually harboring a dark secret. Or we might discover that someone that we thought was prickly and disagreeable is actually extremely altruistic. Can these kinds of impression-inconsistent revelations be successfully incorporated into our evaluations of someone?

Our research suggests that information that is deemed to be highly diagnostic -- that is, particularly revealing of a person's true nature or character -- can successfully undo even extensive amounts of prior learning. At the same time, though, we also find evidence for a valence asymmetry, such that positive impressions are much easier to undo with diagnostic negative behaviors that negative impressions can be undone with diagnostic positive ones.

To learn more, see these two papers:

Cone, J., Mann, T. C., & Ferguson, M. J. (2017). Changing our implicit minds: How, when, and why implicit evaluations can be rapidly revised. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 56, 131-199.

Cone, J., & Ferguson, M. J. (2015). He Did What?: The role of diagnosticity in revising implicit evaluations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(10), p. 37-57.


Photo by Moussa81/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Moussa81/iStock / Getty Images

How much do salient visual cues shape our implicit impressions of others?

Some earlier research has suggested that our relatively spontaneous evaluations of someone are largely shaped by salient visual cues such as physical attractiveness, being overweight, or having a visually salient facial deformity. Do these really dominate our implicit impressions of others, or can they sometimes be overridden? Some ongoing work in our lab explores when and why visual cues vs. explicit knowledge about someone's behaviors ultimately dominate our evaluations of them.


Photo by ezgikocahan/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by ezgikocahan/iStock / Getty Images

What influences our memory for someone's face?

Over the course of your life, you've likely encountered John Lennon's face countless times. Asked to call to mind what he looks like, you could likely readily picture his iconic small, round spectacles. At the same time, you might also be able to consult your mental image to interrogate other aspects of his facial characteristics; you could perhaps remember whether his nose was long and narrow or short and stubby, whether his lips were full or thin, or whether he had high or low cheekbones.

Now allow us to share a lesser-known fact about John Lennon’s life: contrary to the generally positive impression that most of the world holds of the Beatles frontman, Lennon regularly physically abused his first wife, Cynthia Powell, as well as his son. How might this change the mental image you have of him? Could this new information not only shift an otherwise positive impression but also subtly bias and distort the mental image you conjure up when you imagine his face, visualizing his features in such a way as to picture him as less trustworthy, caring or even less attractive?

Some recent work in our lab suggests that it can. Using a technique called reverse correlation, we show that a person's behaviors can distort the way we remember their facial features.


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