Forming impressions of facial attractiveness is mandatory

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Abstract

First impressions of social traits, such as attractiveness, from faces are often claimed to be made automatically, given their speed and reliability. However, speed of processing is only one aspect of automaticity. Here we address a further aspect, asking whether impression formation is mandatory. Mandatory formation requires that impressions are formed about social traits even when this is task-irrelevant, and that once formed, these impressions are difficult to inhibit. In two experiments, participants learned what new people looked like for the purpose of future identification, from sets of images high or low in attractiveness. They then rated middle-attractiveness images of each person, for attractiveness. Even though instructed to rate the specific images, not the people, their ratings were biased by the attractiveness of the learned images. A third control experiment, with participants rating names, demonstrated that participants in Experiments 1 and 2 were not simply rating the people, rather than the specific images as instructed. These results show that the formation of attractiveness impressions from faces is mandatory, thus broadening the evidence for automaticity of facial impressions. The mandatory formation of impressions is likely to have an important impact in real-world situations such as online dating sites.

Peer-reviewedYes
Original languageEnglish
Article number469
JournalScientific Reports
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017

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