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Social perception - Primacy recency

Created by Arshya Vahabzadeh.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] I'm sure you've heard of the term first impressions count. It's because it's a common line of thought that your first impression is pretty important. And it's important because it's long, strong, and easily built upon. Now, what do I mean by each of these? Well, it's long, so when a first impression is formed, it tends to last a long time, whether it's positive or negative. Two, it's strong, so once someone has a first impression of you, it's pretty hard to overcome that. And three, it's easily built upon, so this is a little bit more subtle. And what this means is that when someone has a first impression of you, they will subsequently really kind of put extra emphasis on bits of information that helps to support that first impression. So if someone thinks that you're really messy, they may not put as much emphasis on the fact that your desk is tidy every single day afterwards. But if you've been in your room or something else is not quite right or your bin is overflowing, they may go, ah-ha, look, I knew it, that helps to support my first impression that this is a messy person. And when we think about first impression and the fact that it actually seems to be more important than other bits of data, it's called the primacy bias. Now, that's the first bit of data. Let's think about other bits of data that might be useful. Have you ever heard the term you're only as good as your last game? You're only as good as your last match? You're only as good as your last cheeseburger? Well, what does this suggest? This suggests that your most recent actions are also very important. And people will place a lot of emphasis on your recent actions and your recent performance. And it appears that compared to past performances, your recent performance may have some extra weight to it. This also has a name. And this is called the recency bias. So what I want to do is look at the graph at the bottom of the screen. And I want to label the axis. So the vertical axis is going to be retention. And this is really talking about memory. And the horizontal axis is time. And this graph can actually represent bits of data, as in some experiments have been done, they look at a certain sequence of items that somebody has to remember, or we can think about it as the social data that somebody can obtain from encounters. And I'm actually going to draw a graph for you. And what this graph represents is the time periods in which we seem to recall most information and the information seems to be most important to us. And if we look at this graph and we think about, first of all, the primacy bias, we see that the first chunk of information that we get over here seems to be pretty important. And also later on, the second chunk of information that we get, the recency bias, also appears to be pretty important. And in the middle we have a period of time which is of quite variable duration, given that this graph can apply to lots of different events or a specific event. And the information during this time period seems to be not as important as information that we have very early on or very recently. Even within this middle period if there was a significant event or something that's really memorable, so for example, if the person does something that elicits a prominent, emotional response in you or is very unusual, you may very well have a blip and you remember that event much more, or if it's a sequence of items that you're trying to remember, in the middle of the items you see a picture of a close family member and all the other items are fairly nondescript, you may have a big blip there. But in general, if all the items are pretty much the items you're going to remember in a memory test are pretty much the same or the person's events are pretty typical in a day-to-day basis, the earlier events that we can see on this chart and the most recent events will be the most memorable for you. So it appears that when we form impressions of other people, the most important parts of forming an impression are one, the early impressions that we form because they're long, strong, and easily built upon, and two, the most recent actions a person has done towards us. Everything else in the middle seems to be not quite as important. There was a bit of debate whether the primacy bias or the recency bias is stronger. And I think it may very well vary on the situation. And there's no unanimous verdict at the moment.