Discuss how the primacy effects and recency effects AND central traits might influence impression formation. Refer to empirical evidence in your answer (10 marks) The order of the information we receive about someone can be an important factor. There are two possibilities the first or the last. Common sense suggests we would wait until we have all the information and then make a judgement but in fact psychologists have learned not to follow common sense predictions but to conduct research instead.
A primacy effect has occurred if the first piece of information presented had the greatest impact or longest influence on the impression formed about someone.
A recency effect has occurred if the last piece of information presented had greatest impact or longest influence on the impression formed about someone. These effects are concerned with the order in which the information about a person is received.
There is another factor which is central tendency and this is when some traits we discover about a person are more influential on the impression we form are more influential on the impression we form about that person than other traits might be.
There are two types of central tendency which are central traits (descriptions that have a large impact on the impression formed) and peripheral traits (descriptions that have little impact on the impression formed).
Asch in 1946 wanted to see if the order of information affected the impression formed of a person. To achieve this, he presented a list of traits to participants who received the same information.
The order for group A was positive to negative and group B were negative to positive. They had to come up with words and group A tended to choose more positive traits. He concluded that the first impression was of greatest impact.
Luchins in 1957 had participants read a passage about “Jim” in which he was described in an outgoing way and also in a reserved way. For group 1, extravert – introvert. Group 2 rated, introvert – extravert. A primacy recency effect occurred and he was rated more extravert by participants in group 1.
Jones felt that a recency effect might occur in a more realistic setting, participants watched a person solving maths problems, for every correct solution, they saw a green light switch on but when incorrect, they saw a red light. Overall there were 15 red and 15 green. The orders were: green lights at beginning then red lights and the exact reverse for group B. Participants were asked to estimate how many they got right, Group A on average participants said 21/30 and Group B said 13/30.Obviously this is evidence for a primacy effect and this is the opposite to what researchers expected.
Asch in 1946 did another experiment, he pretended the following word list describing a person to participants and he asked them to rate the person on how pleasant they thought he might be (intelligent, industrial, skilful, –x –, determined, practical, and cautious. The middle words were “warm” “cold” “polite” “blunt”. He found that polite and blunt had no impact on the impression formed but ratings were much more favourable for the “warm” group then the “cold” group. He concluded that warmth is the central trait having the largest impression but politeness is a peripheral trait.
Kelley in 1950 used students as participants. The students attending a lecture were given biographical notes about the lecturer that were the same except he was described as warm for half of students and cold for the other half. They all attended the same lecture together and rated the lecture afterwards. Kelley also measured which students interacted with the lecturer by asking them questions. He found that the ratings of the warm group were much higher and they interacted more.
For the primacy-recency studies, the study Asch performed was not ecologically valid and not realistic. Therefore, cannot be fully trusted as an explanation of impression formation. Luchins did succeed in showing a recency effect, but only when there was a time delay; This is likely because the participant forgot the first information and a new impression is formed on the basis of later information. Participants in the Luchins study were however, rating a hypothetical person they had never met so this instantly made the situation artificial. Both the Asch and the Luchins study show how easy impressions can be formed from limited information and it might be the case that once the impression has started to form, we ignore any later information that doesn’t fit with our impression. Jones proved that first impressions really do count.
Asch’s second study measuring central traits was unrealistic as we rarely rate someone based on a list of words, but a real life setting study by Kelley confirmed Asch’s study. Kelley provided evidence for a very strong support for the idea that some traits are central and do affect out impressions of someone.
Whether traits are central or peripheral depends on the situation, if we have to decide whether someone is possible “friend” then warmth is important. But, for a salesperson we would be concerned that they acted with politeness rather than being blunt with us. This suggests that traits can be central or not depending on the situation. All the research indicates that we make snap judgements about people based on little information so we should be aware that we may misjudge people unless we wait before forming our impressions.
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