This post was co-written with my fellow authors Mark Hurlstone and Graham Hitch.
Today we published an important paper in Cognitive Psychology. The paper is significant because it explains a link between rhythm and memory in terms of a common mechanism that connects speech processing, verbal learning and language development to rhythmic oscillations in brain activity.
Today we published a paper in PNAS about how people form first impressions based on everyday images of faces, of the kind you find on the internet.
By first impressions we mean the way we rapidly form judgements about others’ social characteristics. Although we can make an astonishing range of social inferences based on appearance (trustworthiness, intelligence, dominance, extraversion etc.) these different traits tend to go together in predictable ways, so that they fall along two or three more or less independent underlying dimensions:
approachability (do they want to help me or to harm me?)
dominance (are they capable of carrying out these intentions?)
youthful-attractiveness (perhaps representing whether they’d be a good romantic partner – or a rival!)
These judgements are formed very quickly (in as little as a tenth of a second) and can influence our subsequent behaviour. The impressions we create through images of our faces (“avatars”/“selfies”) are increasingly important in a world where, more and more, we get to know one another online rather than in the flesh. So how can we go from an image of a face to a judgement about someone’s character?
This post was provoked by a discussion with a UK-based professor (let’s call her Rebecca Smith, not her real name) who mentioned on twitter that she had received an inquiry about a PhD application by email from someone addressing her as “Hey Rebecca!” Was this a faux-pas on the applicant’s part?
What makes one scientist different from another? When I participated in I’m A Scientist, an online engagement event with schools, the students’ questions made me think hard about the kind of science I do…