University of Kentucky
Immediately upon encountering another person, people begin forming impressions. Judgments of this person's personality traits are made by observing their behavior and drawing inferences from these observations. Observers may decide that an individual is friendly, intelligent, witty, honest, or possess any number of other dispositional characteristics. By integrating information about the situation and the behaviors of the target individual, perceivers use what has been termed implicit personality theory to form overall judgments of the personality of others ( Brown, 1986; Jones, 1990). These judgments are quite often made on the basis of limited information, but this does not deter elaborate assessments of character.
One reason observers readily make these judgments is that they do not come to an encounter with a blank slate. In fact, research has suggested that many people bring with them preconceived associations of traits and behaviors to their initial interactions with others ( Brown, 1986; Dion, Berscheid, & Walster , 1972; Fiske & Taylor, 1991). At the most primitive level, positive characteristics are associated with each other and, accordingly, negative characteristics imply other negative characteristics ( Asch, 1946; Brown, 1986; Bruner, Shapiro, Taguiri, 1958; Dion et al., 1972). For example, the classic study by Dion and associates ( 1972) found that subjects given photos of more physi-____________________