People should trust their gut instinct about others, their impressions are usually right

Do we know when our impressions of others are valid? Evidence for realistic accuracy awareness in first impressions of personality

From Social Psychological and Personality Science

First impressions are important, and they usually contain a healthy dose both of accuracy and misperception. But do people know when their first impressions are correct? They do reasonably well, according to this study. The findings indicate that there are two ways to be right about people’s personality. We can know how people are different from each other, but a good judge of persons knows that people are mostly alike.


Do people have insight into the validity of their first impressions or accuracy awareness? Across two large interactive round-robins, those who reported having formed a more accurate impression of a specific target had (a) a more distinctive realistically accurate impression, accurately perceiving the target’s unique personality characteristics as described by the target’s self-, parent-, and peer-reports, and (b) a more normatively accurate impression, perceiving the target to be similar to what people generally tend to be like. Specifically, if a perceiver reported forming a more valid impression of a specific target, he or she had in fact formed a more realistically accurate impression of that target for all but the highest impression validity levels. In contrast, people who generally reported more valid impressions were not actually more accurate in general. In sum, people are aware of when and for whom their first impressions are more realistically accurate.

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Article details

Biesanz, J., Human, L., Paquin, A., Chan, M., Parisotto, K., Sarracino, J., & Gillis, R. (2011). Do We Know When Our Impressions of Others Are Valid? Evidence for Realistic Accuracy Awareness in First Impressions of Personality Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550610397211

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