When we see a new face, our brains decide almost unconsciously how attractive and trustworthy a person is. The whole process takes no more than a fraction of a second. It happens so fast that it is possible that the rational part of our brain does not even get involved in the assessment.
Because this reaction does not appear to involve our conscious thought, we need to be aware of what is happening when we look at other people, to realize what is going on when we form judgments about others. The lesson here is not to allow those first impressions to overshadow a more reasoned and rational response to others, whether they are co-workers or customers — or job candidates — according to business advisors.
Princeton researchers discovered this instant decision-making during a study of 200 people. Participants were asked to look at 66 faces that were projected onto a screen for 100 milliseconds, 500 milliseconds and one second.
The people viewing the faces were asked to tell whether they found the person to be trustworthy, and how sure they were about their impression. Researchers also asked the viewers to assess how likeable the people were based on the faces, and how competent and aggressive. The researchers found that the quick judgments people made did not change even when they were given as much time as they wanted to look at the faces. In fact, the viewers became even more sure of their assessment after being able to see the faces for a longer period of time.
Even though there is no connection between a person’s face and his or her character, our minds still rush to make that instant judgment, the researchers said. We decide very fast if people have any of the traits that we value, such as likeability, competence and reliability. The research suggests that our brains are naturally built to make these decisions in a speedy, unconscious manner.
The researchers don’t know why the brain acts this way. What they do know is that the part of the brain involved in the process is called the amygdala, which is also the area of the brain that is activated when a person experiences fear. The amygdala is an area of the brain that existed in animals long before the reasoning part, the cortex, evolved in humans, researchers said.
Most people believe the judgment about whether to trust someone or not is a more complex process, one that involves our reasoning abilities, but the results of this experiment show that this higher-order judgment is made by a basic part of the brain. They speculated that the reaction in the brain may not involve the cortex at all.
As mentioned above, our faces generally have so very little to do with our character. Don’t let a pretty — or not-so-pretty — face fool you when it comes to hiring. Interview job candidates thoroughly and conduct broad and deep background checks. If you need help with the vetting, contact Winston Resources. Our New York City-area staffing firm can and will conduct any and all reference checks you need, as well as conduct preliminary interviews so that you can concentrate on meeting with top candidates only. Contact us today!