The New York University and Harvard University researchers say their findings show how we encode social information and then evaluate it in making such initial judgments.
The scientists said they sought to investigate the brain mechanisms that give rise to impressions formed immediately after meeting a new person. They designed an experiment in which they used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain activity as study participants made initial evaluations of fictional individuals.
The neuroimaging results showed significant activity in two regions of the brain during the encoding of impression-relevant information. The first, the amygdala, is a small structure in the medial temporal lobe that previously has been linked to emotional learning about inanimate objects, as well as social evaluations based on trust or race group. The second, the posterior cingulate cortex has been linked to economic decision-making and assigning subjective value to rewards.
The researchers said those parts of the brain showed increased activity when encoding information that was consistent with the impression.
The research that included Professors Elizabeth Phelps and James Uleman of NYU, Assistant Professor James Mitchell of Harvard, and researchers Daniela Schiller and Jonathan Freeman appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
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