Thoughts on the process of social judgment

The whole process of social introduction, interaction and conclusion making I find amazing.

You introduce yourself , say something nice, like “a pleasure to meet you”, which may or may not be true but you still say it, and than probably start a conversation on any topic you consider all sides to be familiar with, for example the Weather.

What is interesting is what happens at the same time at the back of your mind. Your brain is working hard receiving, digesting and analyzing any relevant information about the people you are having the conversation with, making a calculative judgment on their position relative to you, the purpose of interaction, their characters, usefulness and limitations.

In most cases, the data is processed automatically, at the unconscious level. Than, suddenly, as if by inspiration, the decision on the course of action is effortlessly slipped into your conscious mind. In a matter of seconds a decision is made on whether you are to act and feel a deep interest in your subject or be bored and blank; sensitive and subservient, or dominant and proud; gentle and understanding, or icy cold and ignorant.

No doubt, what happens is very convenient and useful, and makes socializing fast, easy, safe, predictable and effective. Nevertheless, I wonder if it is right to judge and treat people purely on such pragmatic perceptions. Are a few seconds really enough to know a person and judge a person, can we be wrong in our judgment, and how do we recover from our mistakes? For I know I made many of them in the past.


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