THE TWINNING JUDGEMENT
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.