People judged as likable in the flesh also make good first impressions online

First impressions used to be all about the first time two people came face to face. These days, first impressions are as likely to be formed via perusal of a person’s website or Facebook page, as they are to be formed from actually meeting them. Now a study has compared first impressions gleaned from face-to-face contact and from Facebook pages, and found a close parallel between the two. People judged to be likeable via one medium were also judged as likeable via the other.

Max Weisbuch and colleagues had 37 undergrads spend four minutes chatting with what they thought was another participant but was really one of six confederates working for the researchers. Afterwards the confederates rated how likeable they found the participants to be. The same participants also agreed to reveal their Facebook pages to the researchers. These were shown to another group of ten undergrads who subsequently used the pages to rate the likeability of the participants.

The key finding was that participants rated as more likeable in the flesh also tended to be rated as more likeable based on their Facebook page. Moreover, an analysis of the cues used to make these judgements also showed parallels between the two mediums. Video-recordings of the face-to-face contacts suggested it was participants who were more non-verbally expressive (through facial expression and tone of voice) who tended to be rated as more likeable. Similarly, participants with more expressive Facebook pages – for example having more photos available to view – tended to be judged as more likeable. Finally, participants who were expressive in the flesh also tended to be expressive on their Facebook page.

The researchers said this suggests that personal webpages can contain valid information about their owner’s likability in real life. “Hence, while social interactions and personal webpages have many qualitative differences, considered more broadly, there are important social analogies between the two sources of social information,” they concluded.

Link to related Digest item.
Link to online experiment about faces and personality.
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ResearchBlogging.orgWeisbuch, M., Ivcevic, Z., & Ambady, N. (2009). On being liked on the web and in the “real world”: Consistency in first impressions across personal webpages and spontaneous behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45 (3), 573-576 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2008.12.009

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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