You never get a second chance to make a first impression—and, according to a study, that impression is made in just milliseconds.
“The results are consistent with an extensive body of research suggesting that we form spontaneous judgments of other people that can be largely outside awareness,” said Jonathan Freeman, an assistant professor in New York University’s Department of Psychology who conducted the study.
This process, the researchers found, happens because of the amygdala: the part of the brain that deals with processes such as memory, decision-making, and certain emotions.
Studies about the amygdala and trustworthiness have been done, but according to a statement, before this research it wasn’t known that amygdala could assess something as complex as trustworthiness so quickly and before conscious thought.
According to The Guardian, the study was conducted by first offering a group of volunteers a survey where they ranked a series of faces on perceived trustworthiness. Those faces were then shown to a second group for milliseconds at a time—long enough for the volunteers’ eyes to see the images but too short for them to consciously realize what they had seen. The MRI scan showed that their brains made judgements anyway.
“These findings provide evidence that the amygdala’s processing of social cues in the absence of awareness may be more extensive than previously understood,” Freeman said in a statement. “The amygdala is able to assess how trustworthy another person’s face appears without it being consciously perceived.”