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When we meet someone for the first time what information do we use to help us decide what that person is like? They may shake hands, smile, and look at us. They may be dressed in a certain way, speak with an accent or remind us of someone as judgements are made on very little information. All this information is used, more or less effectively to help us in our impression formation. However there are circumstances when we get it wrong and unconscious cues or biases result in misjudgements of others.

A theory was put forward by Asch (1946) in a series of investigations that saw him varying one trait within a set of traits, and then gaining a record of the final impressions. An analysis was then made addressing whether or not these varied traits had any effect on the final impressions. Asch believed that the final impressions would vary according to the presence of a different central trait. This would suggest that all traits that are given to the participants are combined into a single image of the hypothetical person in question.

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Asch’s experiment was also further validated by a more ‘naturalistic’ replication by Kelley (1950), who introduced a guest lecturer to students, describing the newcomer by listing a series of traits. He varied the ‘central trait’ however, in the same manner as Asch did in his experiment, that is, by swapping a single trait within the set with another trait – ‘cold’ became ‘warm’. Kelley then asked the students to evaluate the lecturer, and received different impressions according to which central trait was given to the students present at a particular lecture.

Another theory was the ‘halo effect’, best demonstrated in studies by Dion and Walster (1972) suggests that a person can be labelled as ‘good’ by the presence of one particular trait for e.g. someone who is physically attractive is often assumed to be interesting, humorous, intelligent and caring. All good qualities are attributed to that person, and bad qualities ignored or modified to concur with this impression. Hollywood stars demonstrate the halo effect perfectly because they are often attractive and likeable we naturally assume they are also intelligent, friendly, display good judgement and so on. That is, until we come across evidence to the contrary. Attractive people are often judged as having a more desirable personality and more skills than someone of average appearance.

Therefore, considering both approaches in this experiment, it is expected that a change in one trait dimension within a set of traits leads to a difference in the final impressions formed. The results showed that participants who were given warm pre information rated more positively than those who were given cold pre information.


Kelley’s results have considerable significance in terms of how people present themselves to others. The results have shown that a change of one trait within a set of traits results in different impression formation. Kelley carried out the study in 1950, so I want to replicate the study and see if the occurrence of the results is the same after 56 years. Expected result is that participants given warm pre information will rate positive whereas participants given cold pre information will be more negative.


My hypothesis is pre-information will have a direct affect on impression formation. This hypothesis is directional as studies such as this have already been completed. I will be carrying out a study to support Asch’s theory which will be based on the same theory won’t be repeated. Significance level: p = 0.05 A minimum level of significance of 5% will be acceptable. This means that the probability of getting the results by chance is less than 5%.

Method Design

A laboratory experiment was used as it was the most practical way to test the hypothesis. Independent group design was used because of warm and cold pre information. This study was done using independent and dependent variables. Independent variable (IV) was the impression formation on pre information on two conditions, ‘warm’ (condition 1) and ‘cold’ (condition 2). The dependent variable was the participants rating on a 1-10 scale.

I chose experimental method as it involves manipulating one variable to determine if changes in one variable cause changes in another variable. Also, repeated measures were used as the same participants were involved in both the conditions of the experiment. IV – Pre-information will have a direct effect on the impression formed. Condition A – A person will be described as warm in this situation. Condition B- The same person will be described as cold to a second group of participants. DV- A Likert scale will be used in this study. The scale will be numbered from 1-10. If the participants rate the person as 1 then it means negatively rated whereas if the participant rates the person 10 then it means that they have rated the person positively.

As experimental method relies on controlled methods, I made sure the experiment was carried out during lessons, so the noise level was down. The confounding variables were kept constant i.e. I gave all the participants 3 minutes to read the instructions before they could start the experiment. Researcher bias was also reduced by giving instructions to the participants and having 2 moderators including me to oversee the test which reduced levels of investigator effects. I also made sure that the confounding variables were reduced so that the results for the experiment do not vary.


The study was carried in 2 psychology rooms during a free lesson. 15 random students both male and female participated and were put into 2 different groups. All the participants were sixth form students from our school aged 16-19 years. The students who studied psychology or were studying were not involved in the study as they might have a prior knowledge of the subject which could present confounding variables. I also made sure that the sample of participants I collected was from diverse cultures to make sure it wasn’t culturally biased.

The sample method used was an opportunity sample method. I collected a group of students from the common room as they had free time. They were requested if they could spend some time and participate in a psychology research. The research was carried out with two moderators including me and the psychology teacher. As the participants were divided into 2 groups for condition 1 and 2, I made sure the experiment was carried out at the same time.


An image of the stimulus was chosen randomly from internet and a smart board was used to show the image so it is clear observed. I chose not to print the image in the questionnaire because it could have been not that clear as it was on the smart board. The participants were given instructions on A4 sheets and a pen was used to answer the questionnaire. I also used a Likert scale to receive clearer impression formed for both warm and cold conditions. A pre information sheet will also be used on which the information about the stimulus would be given to the participants. (See appendix 2).


During the study for both the conditions the participants were given instructions and were free to leave if they wanted to withdraw at any time. (See Briefing and debriefing in Appendix 1). The participants will be first chosen randomly and divided into 2 groups. The participants would then be shown the image of the stimulus on the smart board. Then the information about the stimulus would be read by the moderator and the participants would then be ready to use the likert scale on the impression formed by the pre information given to them.


The experiment was carried out in 2 different psychology rooms opposite each other. I also made sure that the room temperature in both the rooms was warm as it was raining outside and was pretty cold. I ensured that the participants in both the rooms did just one condition (either warm or cold). The school sixth form has students from diverse cultures so it wasn’t hard to find participants who were from different cultures.

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