THE TWIN­NING JUDGE­MENT

Society - - SOCIETY SAYS SO -

iT makes sense that your prior knowl­edge of a person—whether he has been kind to you or cheated you—de­ter­mines how you act to­wards that person in the fu­ture. But re­search sug­gests that one person’s track record may in­flu­ence how you treat people who merely look like him. In stud­ies led by Brown Univer­sity, neu­ro­sci­en­tist Oriel Feld­manHall, par­tic­i­pants played a money shar­ing game with sev­eral male “part­ners” whose head­shots were shown on screen (al­though play­ers were led to be­lieve they were deal­ing with real people, the part­ners were vir­tual). As the study par­tic­i­pants played, they dis­cov­ered that these part­ners were very trust­wor­thy or not re­li­able at all. Af­ter­wards, par­tic­i­pants se­lected from among new faces for an­other round of play. Un­be­knownst to them, the head­shots had been dig­i­tally mor­phed to range in their re­sem­blance to those of the orig­i­nal part­ners. The more a new part­ner looked like one who had been un­trust­wor­thy, the more he was re­jected. “If some­body elic­its a tem­plate in your brain that says, ‘This is an X type of person,’ ” Feld­manHall ex­plains, “that’s an easy way to cat­e­gorise that in­di­vid­ual quickly and ef­fi­ciently— and some­times detri­men­tally.” It’s un­clear how far this ten­dency goes; re­searchers fa­mil­iar with the stud­ies spec­u­late that other shared iden­ti­fiers, such as names or pro­fes­sions, might also steer our judge­ments.

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