Friday, September 23, 2011

Two Questions Everyone Asks When They Meet You

Are you warm-hearted and/or competent? People make their judgments almost instantly.

When a person meets you for the first time they ask themselves two questions. The answers to these two questions will have all sorts of knock-on effects for how they think about you and how they behave towards you.

Professor Susan Fiske of Princeton University has shown that all social judgments can be boiled down to these two dimensions (Fiske et al., 2007):

How warm is this person? The idea of warmth includes things like trustworthiness, friendliness, helpfulness, sociability and so on. Initial warmth judgments are made within a few seconds of meeting you.

How competent is this person? Competency judgments take longer to form and include things like intelligence, creativity, perceived ability and so on.

Susan Fiske's research has looked at different cultures, times and types of social judgments, but these two concepts come up again and again in slightly different guises. Not only do we make these judgments about other people, but we frame their behavior using these two questions; we ask ourselves whether it was friendly, moral, sincere, clever etc..

The primacy of warmth and competence may reflect evolved, instinctual reactions to these two questions about others:

Friend or foe? Is this person going to hurt me or help me?

Capable of hurting or helping? Can this person help me if they're friendly or hurt me if they're not?

Thanks to PsyBlog / Spring Org UK


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