Not just love, first impression decides sexual orientation too
From finding a romantic partner to identifying whether a person is gay or straight, first impressions are so powerful that they can override what we are told about people, shows research.
"As soon as one sees another person, an impression is formed. This happens so quickly - just a small fraction of a second - that what we see can sometimes dominate what we know," explained Nicholas Rule of the University of Toronto.
The study found that even when told whether a person was gay or straight, participants generally identified the person's sexual orientation based on how they looked - even if it contradicted the facts presented to them.
"We judge books by their covers, and we can't help but do it. The less time we have to make our judgments, the more likely we are to go with our gut, even over fact," he said.
In the study on first impressions of sexual orientation, Rule and colleagues showed 100 participants photos of 20 men - identifying them either as gay or straight.
The photos had been previously coded whether the men 'looked' gay or straight, which accurately matched to their real-life sexual orientations.
The researchers then tested participants' recall of the men's sexual orientations several times to ensure perfect memorization.
After this learning phase, the researchers then showed participants the faces again, varying the amount of time they had to categorise the men's sexual orientations.
The less time they had to categorise the faces, the more likely the participants were to categorise the men according to whether they looked gay or straight rather than what they had been told about their sexuality.
"They seemed to judge by appearance when they were forced to make their judgments quickly," added Rule.
When they were allowed more time, though, they judged according to what they knew about the individuals.
"If you want to make a good impression, it is critical that it is done in person," said Jeremy Biesanz of the University of British Columbia.
How we create first impressions is also important in the context of finding a romantic partner, said the report presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) conference in Austin, Texas.
(Posted on 16-02-2014)