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What Your Voice Says About You
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Psycasm is the exploration of the world psychological. Every day phenomenon explained and manipulated to one's own advantage. Written by a slightly overambitious undergrad, Psycasm aims at exploring a whole range of social and cognitive processes in order to best understand how our minds, and those mechanisms that drive them, work.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ResearchBlogging.orgSince I accepted an invitation to write for LabSpaces I’ve been wondering how best to make my debut. For those not familiar with my blog (and I take that to be the exceeding majority) I approach a topic that arises in my everyday life, and find an explanation for it from the Psychological literature. To be completely honest, it’s really a self-serving exercise – I’m usually trying to find a method that allows me to manipulate the situation to my advantage.

And so, when considering how best to make my mark here, I came to the art of first impressions.

First, however, I’m at a disadvantage – you can’t see me. And although it’s common wisdom that we all make first impressions based on physical appearance, my goal in beginning Psycasm was to question such assumptions and find out what the science actually says. I’m like mythbusters without the explosions. Or the moustache.

According to Naumann and Colleagues (2009), yes, we do make these assumptions. They stripped down the whole situation and presented subjects with a number of photographs – some of which were posed and some of which we unconstrained. When people viewed the posed condition they were able to accurately estimate levels of Self-Esteem, Extraversion and, surprisingly, Religiosity. When the photos were more natural individuals were apparently able to accurately estimate levels of:




Emotional Stability






Political Orientation

So just for fun, here I am. Make your estimates. Note, here I'm smiling They cut people out for that in their study… Next week I’ll report my personality variables as best I can. Also, it should be noted that this is Psychology where a p<.05 and a correlation above r=.30 is awesome (that’s not entirely fair, but you get the idea).

Me. This was taken for a BioData experiment.

Yet since I’m pretending to be a blogger you’re judging me on my words and my opinions. It turns out there’s a few things – when making a first impression – you really ought to avoid. Now, I don’t mean to sound like a know-it-all, but… you should really avoid disclaimers; at least so says El-Alayli and co (2008). Opening with “I don’t want to sound arrogant, but…” (and a number of other common disclaimers) sets you up for failure. You are judged as way more arrogant if that statement is followed by something passing as arrogant, and since you’re trying to dismiss the arrogance itself the statement is likely to be at least marginally arrogant. Consider the statement they used “I’ll probably get accepted into a few programs because I plan to do well on the Graduate Record Exams”. Now I don’t know about you, but I know folks who’ve followed that disclaimer with claims far more grandiose than that. Perhaps you can share this tidbit the next time you hear someone say “Now I’m not a Racist, but…”. I’m mean, just look at that graph. Just do not utter those words, people, it does you no favours.

I don't mean to be significant...

Lastly, I thought, this is the internet. Sooner or later someone’s going to figure out my name and find me on Facebook. The question is, however, what will you think of me and will you friend me? Tong, Van Der Heide, & Langwell (2008) established what appears to be a neat little curvilinear relationship between people’s perception of you (on facebook) and your number of friends. In short, too many friends and people begin to doubt your actual popularity, and more damningly, your desirability.

So, there you go. I’ve made my first impression and there’s no taking it back. I’d be interested in actually seeing what kind of impression it was, and how accurate your judgements are. Naturally, there’s a huge confound here in that you’ve read my post, perhaps even seen my backblog, and I’ve come out giving advice no-one asked for. Honestly, I didn’t mean to sound like a blogger…

Oh, and the magic Facebook number where things start to go wrong is 500+.

---El-Alayli A, Myers CJ, Petersen TL, & Lystad AL (2008). "I don't mean to sound arrogant, but . . ." The effects of using disclaimers on person perception. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 34 (1), 130-43 PMID: 18162661
Tong, S., Van Der Heide, B., Langwell, L., & Walther, J. (2008). Too Much of a Good Thing? The Relationship Between Number of Friends and Interpersonal Impressions on Facebook Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13 (3), 531-549 DOI: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2008.00409.x
Naumann LP, Vazire S, Rentfrow PJ, & Gosling SD (2009). Personality judgments based on physical appearance. Personality and social psychology bulletin, 35 (12), 1661-71 PMID: 19762717

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I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree on the facebook friend count thing. First of all, I don't know about you, but I am often stuck adding people from work/school/family members/old neighbors that I don't like, at all, but can't not accept friend reqs from for many reasons the main one being, even if I do ignore it, they'll just keep adding me again.
Second, I go through an 'annoyed' phase every now and then, when I clean up my friends list and dump a chunk of people I don't care about that annoy me.
Third, the younger crowd, teenagers, college kids early 20s, they have WAY more friends than 500. All my lil cousins and younger friends have at least 700 'friends'. They are simply exposed to so many more people in school, physical activities, camp, whatever, and ALL those people have fb accounts.
So imo, you can really not say anything about a person based on their friend count w any certainty. Not on facebook anyway. MySpace, now that's another story, and I will agree w this perspective when applied to that site.

About you - my first question is, is this really a pic of you? Or is this yet another one of your psychological mind games?

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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Do you want us to rate you on a scale of 1-10? Or just say "You look like one arrogant bastard." :P

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Evie, agreed. So many things come into a play. And under lab condition people are asked to actively evaluate a person on facebook, whereas the situation you described was people just building their friend count. So the situation is far removed - but that's not to say that an excessive and unmanagable friend count won't have some influence on the way a genuine prospective friend evlautes you. It'll be minimal, but a judgement of some description will be made. I'm happy to send you the paper if you want to have a read.

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Oh, and Brian, Yes: 1 - 10 is fine. Usually in Psych we use a 1 - 7 scale so that the mid-point is even, but 1 - 10 here will do just as well.

Jason Goldman
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Another great catch for Labspaces. Well done, Brian!

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True, assumptions will be made, but I see them as irrational for the reasons I stated above and quite a few more. Therefore, if one were to fall in the category of people that would judge (imo) wrongly, based on that, well then that one is no friend of mine!

You never responded about whether that picture is really you or not.

About the paper, to be honest with you, I will most likely disagree w their method of testing, data collection, and interpretation of results. But that's just me. Not to mention, how we as a culture or society judge things is very dynamic and changes continuously, therefore, that paper is probably obsolete by now.

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Haha, no doubt. Psychology is messy, and you'll find no argument from me on that count. Small effects are the bread-n-butter of psych researchers, and so more established sciences sometimes have trouble swallowing our findings. I guess I hope to try to communicate the aims and findings of those smarter than I, and on more than one occasion a savvy reader has corrected me. Horrah for the scientific process.

And yes, that's photo is me.

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On a 1-10 scale, I'll give it a go

Extraversion 6

Agreeableness 8

Conscientiousness 8

Emotional Stability 7

Openness 6

Likability 7

Self-Esteem 4

Loneliness 2

Religiosity 2

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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@evie, my only issue with the picture is that I kind of make it a point to not bring in dudes that are better looking than me. I have an ego to massage... And I think that's the point you're trying to make. He's too good looking to be a blogger, am I right?? Regardless, this isn't really a fair assessment because you've given us so much more data than just an image, Rift, but I'll play your game :)

Extraversion - 6

Agreeableness - 5

Conscientiousness - 6

Emotional Stability - 7 (damn smile...)

Openness - 4 (Pseudonyms are lame...)

Likability - 6

Self-Esteem - 7

Loneliness - 6 (You have a girlfriend, you can't be that lonely)

Religiosity - 2

Political Orientation - Dirty liberal (like me)

@evie, also, I'm not sure saying that reading a research paper won't sway your opinion, it really should! Your sample size is too small and YOUR methods are much less scientific than those used in a scientific study. You're too biased for YOUR results to reflect reality. This is going to be a fun debate :)

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@Brian, Actually I wasn't referring to looks, but rather the fact that he mentioned an experiment in which people were shown pix of others and had to guess at their attributes and temperament - what he asked us to do for him.. well I didn't put it past him to take a pic from that study so he could compare our input w the data. He did throw in there that tidbit about how pix had to be of people who were not smiling.. but I think he said that just to throw us off. Of course, I might be overestimating his sneakiness.

As far as the study goes.. you are right, I may totally agree w the findings, but in general from the studies I have read, and have no biased or feeling as to what the results 'should' be, I usually find myself thinking I would never approach the issue the way they did, and find flaws in their assumptions and methods of acquiring info. That is of course not always the case, but it happens often.

As far as ego massaging, OverLord, you know we all love you best :)

And as for evaluating, actually I think @Nonisa is pretty dead on!

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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BTW, I did mine on the 7 scale. Because I'm sneaky.

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LMAO nice start mate. TBH, I dunno about ranking, but you are the spitting image of my mate Jay, the guitarist in my band back in college (so a long time ago).

until otherwise convinced I shall now firmly associate you with him in my mind, and read your posts with a thick Birmingham (UK) accent :)

Dr. O
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Nice post, and welcome! Alright, here we go (1-10 scale)...

Extraversion 6
Agreeableness 8
Conscientiousness 7
Emotional Stability 8
Openness 7
Likability 7
Self-Esteem 6
Loneliness 7
Religiosity 5
Political Orientation liberal

Also, thanks to Tiddles, I'll forever be reading your posts with a British accent, which could've colored my ratings, too. ;-)

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Well, if Evie thinks I'm out to trick her in the name of science I guess that will reflect in the agreeableness score. But no, that'd be too much effort just to verify their scores, especially when the opportunity exists to have my ego massaged. Yet, for all the carefully constructed imagery and for all the words I choose - it may all come undone when Evie gets to her interviews...
I guess we'll see how close you all in the next 24 hours though
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