Whether you intend to or not, judging others is in our nature as human beings. The way in which we judge others can depend on a number of factors, including the other person's appearance as well as preconceived notions or stereotypes associated with entire groups. Research has shown that we can fight back against the tendency to stereotype, but nonetheless that would be an exerted effort to recognize and change our initial judgment.
So what some of the most prevalent bases for exerting our often unfounded judgments upon others? How might these factors have proven tangible effects on the victims of these snap judgements?
Here is a list of seven factors, among many, by which first impressions are made.
At this stage in our evolution as human beings, shoes could be likened to another limb of our body. We wear them day in and day out, inside the house and out. They are an essential part of our everyday lives and ability to function. Shoes, utilized daily by almost every human being on Earth, have at the same time become an important symbol of self-expression and creativity. And whether or not your intention was to say something profound about your personality, shoes exert a strong influence over how others view and judge you.
A study out of the University of Kansas intending to relate our judgements of others based on their shoes found that study participants could pinpoint a person's age, gender and income level quite accurately by solely looking at a picture of the person's shoes. Additionally, patients judged the person's separation anxiety, and how laid back they believed the person to be, by analyzing the state of his/her shoes.
A person's height influences how we judge another. Unlike relatively more superficial judgments based on a person's shoe choice, the judgement of others based on height can have tangible effects on a person's life, specifically on how much money that person makes at his/her job as compared to another individual of a different height.
A study from 2004 out of the University of Florida arrived at some interesting conclusions about how height can affect an individual's earning potential. Researchers found that a worker will earn up to $5000 dollars per year more compared to another that is 6-inches shorter. That equates to almost $800 dollars more per year for each inch of height an employee claims above his/her coworker.
Another study focusing on the effects of a man's height on his attractiveness level for potential partners concluded that women prefer taller men, and that subtle height differences can result in massive money expectations. According to this study conducted by Dan Ariely, shorter men need to make more money in order to "stand up" to their competition. Only one inch of height difference resulted in an expectation that the man one inch shorter should make 30,000 dollars yearly in order to be seen as equally attractive.
Although these numbers may seem exaggerated, the concept of "heightism" has existed since the 1970s. Heightism refers to discrimination based on one's height, and as we can see from various studies, can have a powerful impact on the individual being judged in multiple ways.
Race has historically proven to be a point of judgment, and continues to exert a strong influence over societal perceptions of others. Very few places on Earth exist where people are not judged stronged based on their race. Race can have a major impact on a person's life, as this point of judgement can even lead to violence against individuals or whole groups that pertain to a race deemed by others to be inferior. In fact, race might just be the most important factor by which judgments are made.
Several studies conducted throughout the 1990s showed that individuals exerted an automatic stereotype judgment of an individual based on his/her race when showed only a simple photo of the individual. A very interesting study out of Tufts University showed that participants had difficulty remembering the faces of "racially ambiguous" individuals, as the participants were unable to place the individual into clearly defined race category.
Other studies have examined how race affects various aspects of the jury selection and jury removal process. For example, researchers were able to determine that race influences an attorney's decision to removal a given juror from the case without explanation.
Gender, like race, serves as a strong basis for judgments upon individuals and entire groups. While gender roles vary quite a bit around the world, in general males are judged upon their strength and assertiveness, while females are judged upon their looks and sensitivity. Like judgements based on an individual's race, gender-based judgments can have a tangible impact on the individual receiving judgment, whether it be positive or negative.
A 2000 study from the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior concluded that gender influenced participants ratings of dominance and affiliation. According to the study, women are expected to react with sadness to a wide range of situations, including those situations in which males will typically respond with anger. Furthermore, women are expected to react more fearfully to fear situations than men. These were, of course, snap judgments made based upon a simple photo.
Yet another prevalent motivator of snap judgements relates to an individual's choice of clothing. Like shoes, clothes can be used as tools of self-expression. However, even when we don't intend to make a statement with our clothes, we are most certainly being judged by others based on what we wear.
A recent study from the Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management gave participants just a 3 second glimpse of images of men and women dressed in various outfits. In the pictures the face of the person was covered and appeared as a white spot, so the researchers were able to conclude that the participants were in fact making judgments based on the clothing they saw. Participants identified specific characteristics about the individual based on these photos, such as confidence level, flexibility, income and success. More formal outfits, such as pant suits, were associated with higher ratings of these characteristics.
A similar study addressed judgments of women's attire in the workplace. Participants were shown photos of various models in subtly different outfits. Once again participants only received a glance of the photo and were asked to rate the individuals on status and position in the work environment. Even very subtle changes in the outfit, such as lengthening the skirt a couple inches or fastening one more button, lead participants to make distinct judgements about the individual. More conservative outfits were associated with higher job status within the company.
An individual's weight is yet another factor that influences how others see and exert their personal judgments upon an individual. Overweight individuals are typically judged negatively, and associated with unhealthy eating habits, laziness and gluttony, among other characteristics. According to a study conducted by researchers at Yale University, obese individuals face an increased level of discrimination, and the situation continues to worsen. In a related study, participants associated various negative words with obese individuals, such as lazy, slow, sloppy and undisciplined. On the other hand, thin women also received negative associations such as vain, superficial and bitchy.
Avoiding becoming the victim of judgment is simply impossible. Controlling your urge to judge others, while maybe not impossible, can prove to be counter-intuitive and quite difficult. It seems our understanding of the world and those around us is not based in fact, but often on associations make spontaneously