Implicit Personality Theories: What They Are and What They Explain

Who ever made someone’s first bad impression? Each, to a greater or lesser extent, judges others based on what has been seen for the first time.

It is common that if you look at a pretty person it is assumed that they are also charismatic and warm, or if you see a person wearing pasta glasses, it is assumed that they will be smart and responsible.

Implicit theories of personality they relate to how inferences are made about others based on how little we know about them. They are widely applied in everyday life and have profound social repercussions.

Let us consider in more detail their definition, what factors influence the formation of first impressions and what are the implications for society.

    Implicit Personality Theories: What Are They?

    Implicit personality theories are the prejudices that a person can commit when forming impressions of other people they do not know, based on a limited amount of information.

    some factors they influence how first impressions are generated on others, Just like the background, the biases that the same individual has, in addition to the humor or rumors that have spread about the person having the biases.

    The first definition of these theories was given by Bruner and Tagiuri in 1954, defining them as the knowledge that one has of a person and the way in which this knowledge is used to make inferences from his personality. However, among the first to tackle this concept was Solomon Ach, who in the mid-1940s conducted research to clarify what factors influenced the formation of these first impressions.

    General theories on this concept

    There have been two theories that have tried to explain in more depth how and why people, when we see another individual with certain characteristics and traits, we generate inferences about his personality, Assuming their behavior and their way of being.

    Theory of Coherence

    This theory refers to the form in how a new impression generated relates to what we already knew about the person being judged.

    If positive traits were seen in the person tested, it can be assumed that the rest of their traits are desirable as well. On the other hand, if the observation was negative, it will be assumed that the person will have mostly undesirable characteristics.

    Attribution theory

    This theory describes how people view traits that are believed to be in other individuals to remain stable over time. In other words, it seems that the characteristics attributed to another person remain constant throughout the life of the other.

    In this theory, there are two positions:

    On the one hand, the entity theory, which maintains that personality traits are stable over time and in situations, And that assumptions can be made about the person’s behavior in general terms based on a small repertoire of his or her behaviors.

    On the other hand, the incremental theory, Which argues that the strokes are a bit more dynamic, variable over time.

      Factors Influencing Implicit Theories of Personality

      These are the elements that come into play in the implicit theories of personality.

      1. Central characteristics Vs. peripheral characteristics

      When observing a person for the first time or receiving prior information about him, the characteristics seen are not taken into account as well. There are some traits that stand out from the rest. In research conducted by Asch himself, this idea was fundamental.

      The central features are what play a more important role and force in the formation of the impression, While the peripherals are those which are not given as much importance, having less weight in forming the impression.

      Asch was able to observe this through his research. In one of his studies, he asked some participants to get an impression of a person described as “intelligent, skillful, hard-working, warm, energetic, practical and far-sighted”, while others asked them to. get a sense of a person described as “intelligent, skillful, hardworking, cold, energetic, practical and knowledgeable.”

      He saw that, despite the change of only one shot, the impressions formed by the participants differed considerably. Additionally, when asked if they would answer which traits they found most noteworthy, “hot” and “cold” stood out above the rest.

      Also, he was able to observe that when a central line seen as negative was placed, as is the case with “cold”, its sign was imposed, even if the other peripheral characteristics were positive.

      2. Effect of observer characteristics

      Self-attribution traits of people. The more importance we attach to a particular trait of ourselves, the more likely we are to see it in others. Of course, the trait in question will vary depending on the person and the context plays an important role.

      For example, if you consider yourself very extroverted, when you find other extroverted people, the impression that will be generated will tend to be more positive. Also, if we consider ourselves more reserved, when we meet people who are also unsociable, we will see them as more desirable.

      One of the explanations for this phenomenon would be the perception of seeing people with similar characteristics as their own as ingroup membersJust like when you see a person of the same ethnicity, culture or religion.

      When you think of parts of the same group as a personality trait or trait, you tend to skew the first impression in positive terms.

      3. Fill in the fields

      Sometimes, and as simple as it may sound, people, when we receive little information about others, proceed to “fill in the gaps” they have in their personality, attributing characteristics consistent with what has already been seen.

      4. Effects of primacy

      More importance is placed on the information that was received first than that which followed it.

      The first characteristics observed they will define the direction in which the impression is made, Have them analyzed based on what has already been assumed first.

      5. Mood

      Humor can influence how the first impression is made.

      Being in a good mood encourages the other person to be analyzed in a more complete and holistic way, Taking into account all of its features or trying to get as much information as possible about it.

      On the other hand, if you’re not having a good day, it’s more common to opt for a strategy that focuses on specific details and features.

      In addition, there is a certain congruence with the state of mood and the impression that has been made. If you’re in a bad mood, you’re more likely to have a negative first impression.

      Implications of these psychological theories

      Implicit theories of personality have many social consequences, especially when others are misjudged. In addition, it has been suggested that such ways of generating impressions influence memory by reminding others, remember, in particular, traits and behaviors observed in the person that correspond to what the first impression was generated.

      They have been associated with the extent to which a particular employee action is evaluated by supervisors. For example, if a worker exhibits a remarkable trait that is positive for the organization, his boss assumes that he may have other traits that are also positive and the first impression is generated based on that.

      All this can be linked to two phenomena.

      First, we have the halo effect, Which is the tendency to conclude that a person’s traits are all positive if he shows a small amount of them, or, conversely, if he only shows a few negative points, it is assumed that the rest will be too. This fact could be simplified by categorizing people as unmistakably good or arguably bad based on some observed behavior.

      Secondly, physical attractiveness generally influences how impression. If a person is beautiful, it is generally assumed that they will have socially desirable characteristics, while if a person is not rather graceful, they will be presumed to have negative characteristics. This idea is commonly known, which is why there is the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bacova, V. (1998). Implicit personal theories on specific areas of the social world. Studia Psychologica, 40 years old, 255-260.
      • Chiu, CY, Dweck, CS, Tong, JYY and Fu, JHY (1997). Theories and implicit conceptions of morality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 923-940.
      • Chiu, CY, Hong, YY and Dweck, CS (1997). Secular dispositionism and implicit theories of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 19-30.
      • Dweck, CS, Chiu, CY and Hong, YY (1995). Implicit theories. Development and extension of the model. Psychological research, 6, 322-333.
      • Dweck, CS, Hong, YY and Chiu, CY (1993). Implicit theories. Individual differences in the likelihood and significance of dispositional inference. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 644-656.
      • Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relationships. New York: Wiley
      • Hollander, JA and Howard, JA (2000). Social psychological theories on social inequalities. Quarterly Social Psychology, 63, 338-351.

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