We Are Even Quicker To Judge Than We Realize, Study Shows

An undated image of the human brain taken through scanning technology. The scan shows a person responding to a visual scene, with the imaging technology measuring increases in blood flow to a certain region of the brain. Neuroscientists use functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques - in which a person's head is put in a machine like a giant magnet - to gaze deep within the brain to view neural regions that monitor behavior and regulate emotions. –REUTERS

You never get a second chance to make a first impression — and, according to a study, that impression is made in just milliseconds.

The Journal of Neuroscience published a new study this week that found people can figure out how “trustworthy’’ they find someone even before they consciously see that person’s face.

“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.’’

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