Implicit Personality Theory is summed up in the popular maxim, “The first impression is the last impression.”
What are the underlying factors that govern impression formation? Do you think that first impressions carry considerable weight in making judgments than the subsequent impressions? If you are dying to know the answer, let us tell you it’s the implicit personality theory which is a key to impression formation.
In this article, we’ll intrigue you with something you might have not heard of. Here, you’ll get to explore what implicit personality theory is, how personal and social perceptions play role in setting up impressions in minds, what are the factors that mediate the process of impression formation, and lastly how one can manage impressions.
What Will I Learn?
- 1 Implicit Personality Theory Definition
- 2 Implicit Personality Theory Examples
- 3 Role Of Personal Perception In Shaping Impressions
- 4 Factors Affecting Implicit Personality Theory
- 5 Potential Drawbacks Of Implicit Personality Theory
- 6 Implicit Personality Theory And Impression Management
- 7 FAQ – Frequently Asked Question about Implicit Personality Theory
- 8 Conclusion – Implicit Personality Theory:
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Let’s begin with the main subject.
Implicit Personality Theory Definition
Implicit personality theory is defined as the specific patterns, biases, and presumptions an individual takes into account when forming impressions that hinge on the least amount of information you have about an unfamiliar person.
This theory was proposed by Lee Cronbach in the 1950s. It explores the general human tendency to form impressions of people, things, or objects without any mental effort.
It is all about “the generalized other.” This ‘other’ is suggestive of the attributes and abilities of a typical person you are to form an impression of and also how these attributes are interrelated.
Based on the most evident traits of a person we meet; we not only make general assumptions but also jump to conclusions.
Therefore, implicit personality theory ushers the inferences that social make of the other person.
Implicitness – The Most Notable Feature Of This Theory
One of the most prominent characteristics of implicit personality theory is its automaticity/implicitness. In this context, implicit means automatic. This points toward the fact that the generalized assumptions aren’t made deliberately or consciously. It’s a sub-conscious process that allows your brain to process the little information about someone and then conclude intuitively. It all happens without you even realizing it.
This suggests that the observer picks up one of the characteristics of the other person and unknowingly begins to make deductions.
Implicit Personality Theory Examples
Just imagine you’re at a restaurant with your friends, you see a guy and scan him from head to toe. Taking in his appearance – tattooed arms, colored hair, pierced ears- what pops up in your mind?
You instantly put labels on his personality by ascribing him a cool dude who loves partying, eating, making fun, or even smoking (though you’ve not seen him doing so). What just happened? You formed an immediate impression of him in your mind based on his appearance.
Similarly, if a perceiver views someone in an energetic mode and speculates that energy is related to intelligence and wisdom, the perceiver will most probably infer from the a*sumption that the other person is intelligent.
Let’s say you see a woman dressed in formals, you will right away presume that she works in an organization, a bank, or a law firm.
This is how you make snap judgments and decisions about someone you are unfamiliar to but the conclusions you draw might be very far away from the reality.
You and I will most likely have different perceptions about the same person. This makes both of us unique.
Now let’s see this variability in perceptions.
Role Of Personal Perception In Shaping Impressions
Fundamental to implicit personality theory is the personal perception which is unique to each individual. Impression formation doesn’t work the same way for each one of us. It’s an individual process that rests on your personal history and experience.
Consider, you have a dearest aunt who wears a scarf, if someone wearing a scarf crosses your way, you’re more likely to form a positive impression of that new person. This is because your personal experience with scarfs is positive.
On the flip side, maybe your friend has a selfish and cunning aunt who puts on a scarf. So, he/she will most probably have a different a*sociation. He/she will form a negative impression of people in scarfs. This is how perspectives vary from person to person.
Some of us form impressions early, others form slowly. Some develop impressions based on their personal experience others tend to welcome or accept impressions formed by others. It should be noted that our preconceived notions delineate our impressions heavily. This is what most of us do.
The first impressions we make of people are instrumental in shaping our future connections with others. It is very common to hear people talk about the significance of first impressions but the way we form our impressions has a huge psychological impact which is mediated by numerous factors.
Factors Affecting Implicit Personality Theory
A general impression is developed by keeping in mind a couple of governing factors. Here are listed some of the factors that race in an observer’s mind when meeting someone for the very first time.
1. Central Vs Peripheral traits
Upon forming an impression, an observer does not always consider all the traits equally. There are some traits more valued by an observer than the other corresponding traits. Highly influential traits that have a powerful effect on overall impressions are termed as central traits. Contrarily, the less influential traits having a little impact are known as peripheral traits.
It is to be noted that central traits are important in setting related traits.
2. Observer traits
If the observer himself possesses a specific trait, he will more likely find or observe the very same trait in other persons. This can be explained in terms of “intergroup bias” which categorizes people with similar attributes into groups. This way, people with co-existing features judge each other more favorably.
For instance, those of you who are extrovert will tend to form a positive impression of people who are also extrovert.
3. Self-based Heuristic
Impressions are always created counting on information about the concerned person. This self-based heuristic is the strategy that an observer uses to fill in the gaps with the trait information of an individual that cogitates with the personality of the observer.
Connecting the dots of the missing information makes the behavior of the other person more understandable as well as gives the observer a sense of closure.
The more a person adopts a self-based heuristic strategy, the less are the chances that he/she is making an appropriate trait judgment. So, this aspect of implicit personality theory is a drawback.
4. Early information Vs Late information
Early information is weighed heavily as compared to the information learned later about an individual or an object. In psychological terms, this string of information is known as the primary effect.
In the context of impression formation, the sequence in which a person’s traits are manifested has a pretty big impact on the overall impression.
For example, if someone tells you that your manager is authoritative and stubborn, you’ll set a bad impression with this early information. The information you’ll later receive regarding your manager will have a trivial impact.
5. Source of information
The information you get from a reputable source holds more weight than the information received from a person you are not in good terms with. Thus, the source of information is of paramount importance in shaping your impression.
6. Communication- Verbal and Non-verbal
Impression formation is often a function of our non-verbal behavior. Your body language, facial expressions, gestures, movements, etc. all define your personality at first sight.
Also, the way you communicate with the other person is a key factor in outlining your overall impression.
7. Physical attractiveness
An important dimension of creating an impression of someone is what’s called physical appearance. How a person looks matters a lot when you are to form an impression.
If people appear physically unattractive to your eyes, you’ll dislike them for being clumsy and will think about them negatively.
On the other hand, if you see a well-dressed person, you’ll get attracted by the way he/she looks and you’ll unconsciously form a positive image in your mind.
Physical attractiveness can also be explained in terms of the halo effect. Just mark the halo effect in your mind, we’ll get to it sooner.
When it comes to impression formation, mood can play an influential role. If you’re in a positive mood, you’ll process the information holistically but a negative mood will have an opposite effect. A positive mood picks up more early information as compared to a negative mood.
Now being familiar with the basis of personality impression, here we’d like to highlight some of the drawbacks of the theory under discussion.
Potential Drawbacks Of Implicit Personality Theory
Implicit personality theory enables people to make prompt judgments without even knowing the person at heart.
In addition to the self-based heuristic approach, another drawback of this theory is when the observer tends to believe that the two traits are more highly correlated when in real terms they are not.
This delusion can take two forms: Halo Effect and Logical Error
Let’s discuss both these psychological effects briefly.
It is a type of cognitive bias in which our overall impression guides how we feel about a certain person and with the personality traits, either good or bad, we evaluate his/her character.
The halo effect can be elucidated by considering the example of celebrities. Since, a celebrity is a public figure who is charming, successful, and often lovable, a perceiver may also deem such an attractive personality intelligent, funny, and friendly This is because the perceiver takes all these traits favorable and connects them unconsciously to get to the conclusion.
At a specific level, the halo effect refers to a natural tendency of people to adjudge attractive individuals for their personality attributes more favorably in comparison to those who are less attractive.
This proclivity for forming a generally favorable, unfavorable, or average overall impression of a target person creates biased judgments that may not even be true.
One cannot judge the other person merely based on physical attractiveness. The person who appears to be least attractive may be most skillful but you’ll most likely neglect that person and his skills due to your biased and exaggerated judgments.
Logical error fallacy fools us with misdirection by amalgamating logics with the best possible reasoning of ours about any person.
This happens when an observer tends to make judgments about the trait relationships based on correlations he/she reckons logical instead of forming these relationships that are congruent with the real-life traits.
Logical error fallacy can be explained by a*suming that a person who is muscular and physically strong is also athletic. Labeling him athlete is what you have logically thought of.
By now, we expect you have picked a lot of peculiar points from this article and you’re clear that it’s your first impression that matters a lot. Not everybody’s first impression leaves the other person in awe. This is a path mastered by a few only. But that doesn’t mean one can’t manage the impression.
Here, in the last section, we’ll let you know how to do so.
Implicit Personality Theory And Impression Management
An impression is something you can manage by adopting certain strategies. You can appear in the good books of other people by exhibiting vivid personality traits.
Impression management refers to the processes or steps you consider to convey the impression that you wish others to have of you.
Impressions are largely based on two factors:
- Your appearance (as discussed earlier)
- The way you communicate
What you say (verbal communication) and what you do (non-verbal communication) largely configure impressions.
Here are listed some of the strategies that will help you leave a positive impression on others especially in your initial interactions.
- Well-present yourself – be comfortable and relaxed
- Try to appear active and enthusiastic
- Be on your best manners- be polite and courteous
- Communicate warmth, energy, and interest in the other person
- Communicate your message effectively
- Be honest, reliable, and optimistic
- Demonstrate shared values and attitudes (co-occurring in both of you)
Mastering the art of impression management will facilitate you in presenting your best image to others that you want them to see.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Question about Implicit Personality Theory
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Conclusion – Implicit Personality Theory:
Just to abridge the whole topic and to give you an extract, implicit personality theory is an intuitively based human behavior theory that is constructed to predict people and their behavior based on personality traits.
So how does one person form an impression of another person? That’s the question behind implicit personality theory.
We form impressions every single day. Every time we come across someone, we form impressions. We are very good at sliding to conclusions with the missing information. Once we get to know about any cardinal trait of a person, we a*sume that he/she also exhibits other traits that are in line with that central trait.
The impression we form may or may not be correct on grounds of social and personal perceptions. This is because we make impressions by taking in the appearance of the person despite knowing that appearances are often deceptive.
These first impressions are not resistant to change. Rather these impressions are subjected to change as one begins to interact with the other person. This reflects our first impression may not always be our last impression.
We hope we were able to implant the seed of implicit personality theory in your minds. We’ll be glad if you share your ideas and opinions regarding impression formation in the comments section below.