Research

How do we form impressions of others?

A major focus of the Seeing Human Lab is examining how perceivers go from processing morphological facial features (e.g., eyes, nose, skin color) to forming higher-level impressions (e.g., friendly, attractive, prejudiced). How does this differ for male and female targets? Young and old? Members of my own and other races, or any other types of groups?

Examples of work in this area:

Links between specific facial features and racial prejudice [Link]

The stability of trait impressions from facial features that vary from static to dynamic (e.g., bone structure vs. facial musculature)

Changes in facial structure with age, and how it contributes to age-related stereotypes [Link]

How do neural mechanisms contribute?

In addition, using a mix of fMRI and EEG, we examine the neural mechanisms that give rise to these impressions of others. How do perceivers integrate top-down processes, such as motivation or stereotypes, into their representations of targets? When perceivers encounter targets who are inconsistent with their expectations and stereotypes, how is that information integrated at the neural level, and how does it change the overall stereotype? How are these neural processes related to downstream behavior?

Examples of work in this area:

How quickly is information inconsistent with stereotypes integrated in our representations of others? [Link]

Do individuals have to inhibit stereotypes when perceiving targets incongruent with those stereotypes? [Link]

Are multiple group memberships processed equally at the neural level? [Link]

What is the real world impact?

Finally, it is particularly important to assess how these social impressions might matter in the real world. Just how might these effects manifest? In what domains (e.g., dating, hiring, voting) are our perceptions of others likely to influence our behaviors? When are our stereotypes and biases particularly likely to change our behaviors?

Examples of work in this area:

Less feminine politicians receive fewer votes, particularly in conservative areas [Link]

Perceptions of Obama's foreignness and evaluations of his performance are driven by racial biases [Link]

Newspapers show more warm and competent images of political figures with shared political leanings [Link]

Own-race memory biases are driven by group membership, not race specifically [Link]