Taylor, a first-year Ph.D. student, successfully presented her thesis proposal to peers and professors alike. In the presentation titled “I’ll believe it when I see it” Taylor details the progress, she has made toward developing her topic of interest. Her research of choice centers around the tipping points in changing one’s initial impression of an individual. In other words, at what point can an individual’s perception of another change despite what the initial impression may have been? How may this impression’s tipping point differ when changing a negative perception to a positive one; from a positive to a negative? Taylor hopes to answer these questions by implementing previous research methods and new techniques alike.
In order to understand this research we have to talk about personal perception. Person perception is a concept where people learn about an individual and then make assumptions based on what they learn. This assumption can also be considered an impression. This impression, whether right or wrong, is created based on what we saw and what it means to us. Our impressions of someone can often affect the ways in which we interact with a person. According to the moral primacy model, morality is an important factor in deciding what we think about a person. Sociability and competency are also factors that decide our impression, but neither are nearly as influential as morality. Morality can be simplified as understanding whether someone is good or bad. If we see someone holding the door open we think that is a good action and the person engaging in that behavior is good.
In Taylor’s proposed research design, different mediums will be used in order to display an individual groin through change. These mediums include visual media, auditory media, and text-based media. Participants will also be divided in whether they see a good person eventually do bad things or the opposite. They will witness this change in the person gradually and then be asked to come back in a week to complete a survey. Taylor hypothesizes that participants who see an individual changing from their initial behaviors will then change their perceptions sooner seeing good people doing bad things, rather than people hearing or reading about bad people doing good things. Taylor’s inspiration from her study comes from gaps in previous literature. Other studies have not considered the medium in which individuals learned about an individual, which grossly underestimates the amount that we learn about a person by seeing or hearing about them.
The practical applications of this research are numerous. For starters, previous literature has established the importance of character judgments we make about others. When we make these judgments we want these decisions to be informed. A good and informed decision can keep us away from danger. What is important about these decisions is that they are correct. If the method by which people learn about a person’s actions can affect the perception of it we can better convey good or bad behavior. These implications ripple into the world of law and politics; if someone has truly learned their lesson from their actions it may be better to see that change rather than hear it from the individual. This research will also help to reduce negativity bias, the phenomenon in which people are stuck with a negative perception of someone despite real changes being made. Thinking that someone “will never change” is unrealistic, and change may be more likely than some people give credit for. Lastly, a study like this will have more practical application in the real world where we see people act in moral or immoral ways daily. Showing people these actions will better replicate how we may happen to see these events.