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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Since 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:
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).
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.
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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