Aging, Stereotypes And First Impressions

The ability to interpret thin slices evolved as a way for our ancestors to protect themselves in an eat-or-be-eaten world, whereas modern-day threats to survival often come in the form of paperwork (dwindling stock portfolios) or intricate social rituals (impending divorce). The degree to which thin slices of experience help us navigate modern encounters—from hitchhikers to blind dates—is up for debate.
Ekman says that people excel at reading facial expressions quickly, but only when a countenance is genuine. Most people cannot tell if someone is feigning an emotion, he says, "Unless their eyes have been trained to spot very subtle expressions that leak through." Consider anger: When we are boiling mad, our lips narrow—an expression we can't make on demand when we're pretending. And the accuracy of a snap judgment always depends on what exactly we're sizing up. Ekman doesn't think we can use a thin slice of behavior to judge, say, if someone is smart enough to be our study partner or generous enough to lend us a bus token. "But we can pretty easily distinguish one emotion from another, particularly if it's on the face for a second or more." Spending more time with a genuine person, he says, won't yield a more accurate sense of that person's emotional state.
We can take thin slices of information to form a first impression of emotions and whether those emotions are true. In Second stage impressions we are taught how to judge others, holding our thin slices up to the light of social stereotypes. Here are attitudes effect are judgments. Research conducted by Brian Nosek, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia studies these stereotypes.
Quoted from Psychology Today, “
Nosek and colleagues administer a quick online test that reveals the beliefs people either can't or won't report. Called the Implicit Association Test, it asks participants to pair concepts, such as "young" with "good," or "elderly" with "good." If, in some part of his mind, "old" is more closely related to "bad" than to "good," the test taker will respond more quickly to the first pairing of words than to the second. In versions of these tests, small differences in response times are used to determine if someone is biased toward youth over the elderly, African-Americans over Caucasians or for President Bush over President Kennedy. "When I took the test," says Nosek, "I showed a bias toward whites. I was shocked. We call it unconsciousness-raising, in contrast to the consciousness-raising of the 1960s

Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at Also check out the body language quiz on her YouTube Channel at