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date: 20 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

“Initial impressions” join personality and social psychology like no other field of study—“personality” because impressions are about personalities and perceivers’ personalities affect these impressions; and “social” because social cognitive processes influence impression formation and sociocultural contexts have major effects on impressions. How people describe others is reviewed: terms used, how descriptions reveal theories about others, and importance of types and categories. Research on social cognitive processes underlying these descriptions is highlighted: automatic and controlled attention, effects of primes and their dependence on contexts, acquisition of valence, spontaneous inferences, and interplay of automatic and control processes. Accuracy of initial impressions is examined, as are what accuracy means and motivated biases and distortions. Perceiver features and relations between targets and perceivers are reviewed. Frameworks for understanding explanations, as distinct from descriptions, are detailed: attribution theory, theory of mind, and simulation theory, including synchrony and the role of embodied cognition and metaphor.

Keywords: stereotypes, social cognition, priming, spontaneous inferences, automaticity, accuracy, attribution, theory of mind, simulation, synchrony

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