The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark The Legal Examiner Mark search twitter facebook feed linkedin instagram google-plus avvo phone envelope checkmark mail-reply spinner error close
Skip to main content

Our brains seem to be hard-wired to make instantaneous judgments of people from their faces, according to research coming out of Princeton.

I appreciate learning this from an article posted at Medgadget. This may explain why I have always tended to like beautiful women even before they say a word. It is probably why I tend to trust professionals with gray hair over those that look like Doogie Howser, M.D.

But, in the selection of jury, I have found through some very bad experiences that my instantaneous reactions are frequently wrong. Setting aside these reactions, however, is not an easy thing to do. It is hard to go through a rational analysis of the information elicited from a prospective juror when your mind is constantly whispering, “I really like this guy.”

This is why we often turn to experts in jury selection to assist us at trial. These experts have successfully turned off the immediate snap judgment mechanism and scientifically weigh all of the available information and characteristics of the juror before arriving at a decision.

More about the Princeton study:

Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov has found that people respond intuitively to faces so rapidly that our reasoning minds may not have time to influence the reaction — and that our intuitions about attraction and trust are among those we form the fastest.

“The link between facial features and character may be tenuous at best, but that doesn’t stop our minds from sizing other people up at a glance,” said Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology. “We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them. It appears that we are hard-wired to draw these inferences in a fast, unreflective way.”

Todorov and co-author Janine Willis, a student researcher who graduated from Princeton in 2005, used timed experiments and found that snap judgments on character are often formed with insufficient time for rational thought. They published their research in the July issue of the journal Psychological Science.

Comments are closed.

Of Interest