- Oct 2017
But a visual presentation of complex information can allow readers to make quick com-parisons.
In her TEDx Talk, Amy Cuddy shared research of other scientists in her field that demonstrates the significance of body language in our conscious and unconscious judgements of others. The “quick comparisons” of “visual representation[s]” mentioned in the text can be directly related to Nalini Ambady’s research on what she termed “thin-slice judgements.” Thin-slice judgements are often unconscious, initial evaluations of another person’s character, yet they influence our perceptions and long-term impressions immensely.
Nalini Ambady’s research challenges the popular belief that human intuition is biased and inaccurate. Brief observations, such as those based on a singular photo or 2-second clip, are powerful demonstrations of “fast thinking.” Fast thinking, despite its quick judgement and conclusion, is no less significant than long-term evaluations. According to Ambady, quick comparisons shape our preference towards both job candidates and romantic partners. They even accurately predict the teaching effectiveness of college professors.
In 1993, Ambady published her first findings on the significance of nonverbal behavior in our determination of another person’s character. In this study, Ambady produced 30-second soundless clips of college lectures; she then asked participants to whom the professor was a stranger to evaluate that professor’s teaching effectiveness. Students of the professor also rated his or her teaching effectiveness, and surprisingly, independent scorers and actual students of the professor produced similar assessments of teaching effectiveness.
Even when shortened to 10 second, 6 second, and 2 second clips, brief, soundless college lectures induced similar ratings of teaching effectiveness between independent raters and actual students. Ambady’s following studies further supported her assessment of the accuracy of “thin-slice judgements, showing that nonverbal behavior (which can be taken into context as all that does not encompass the linguistic mode or the aural mode) efficiently communicates information about our environment.
Alex Todorov of Princeton University conducted a study that found that 70% of the outcomes of Senate and gubernatorial races could be predicted solely based on photos of the candidates’ faces.
Alex Todorov's Research: On the Face of It: The Psychology of Electability by Maria Konnikova