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Positive First Impressions Made More Quickly

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Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on June 22, 2009

Positive First Impressions Made More QuicklyNew research sheds light on the importance of first impressions: Happy or surprised faces get processed by your brain’s first impressions more quickly than those that are angry, standoffish or negative.

“Positive expressions, or expressions of approach, are perceived more quickly and more precisely than negative, or withdrawal, ones. So happiness and surprise are processed faster than sadness and fear,” noted J. Antonio Aznar-Casanova, the lead author of the new study and a researcher at the University of Barcelona.

The researchers worked with 80 psychology students (65 women and 15 men) to analyze the differences between their cerebral hemispheres using the “divided visual field” technique, which is based on the anatomical properties of the visual system. Previous research has demonstrated that our brains can form a first impression of people’s primary emotions or social approach after seeing their faces for only 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds).

“What is new about this study is that working in this way ensures that the information is focused on one cerebral hemisphere or the other,” noted Aznar-Casanova.

The results show that the right hemisphere performs better in processing emotions. “However, this advantage appears to be more evident when it comes to processing happy and surprised faces than sad or frightened ones,” the researcher points out.

This research study adds to previous research that had revealed asymmetries in the way the brain processes emotions, and enriches the international debate in cognitive-emotional neuroscience in terms of how to define the exact way in which human beings process these facial expressions.

People make deductions from the expressions on people’s faces. “These inferences can strongly influence election results or the sentences given in trials, and have been studied before in fields such as criminology and the pseudoscience of physiognomy,” the neuroscientist tells SINC.

Two theories are currently competing to explain the pattern of cerebral asymmetry in processing emotions. The older one postulates the dominance of the right hemisphere in the processing of emotions, while the second is based on the approach-withdrawal hypothesis, which holds that the pattern of cerebral asymmetry depends upon the emotion in question, in other words that each hemisphere is better at processing particular emotions (the right, withdrawal, and the left, approach).

“Today there is scientific evidence in favor of both these theories, but there is a certain consensus in favor of the lateralization of emotional processing predicted by the approach-withdrawal hypothesis,” concludes Aznar-Casanova.

The new research was published in the latest issue of the journal Laterality.

Source: Plataforma SINC

 

APA Reference
NewsEditor, P. (2009). Positive First Impressions Made More Quickly. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2009/06/22/positive-first-impressions-made-more-quickly/6666.html

 

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