Attributing Motives, Intentions, Traits, and Essential Worth and Value onto Others
We infer (attribute) other people’s intentions and worth from their behavior and physical appearance and project character traits and qualities, such as abilities, success, status, and popularity, onto them based on perceived habits.
We classify others when we initially meet them, according to several markers of perceived social status.
We have immediate unconscious responses during new encounters:
Social psychology research confirms the self-evident assumption that we also project personality traits onto others based on how we aesthetically react to their appearance. If we like the way a person looks, we automatically attribute positive qualities and moral worth to them. We more easily form immediate biases against those we find unattractive.
Berscheid and colleagues discovered that better-looking people are commonly assumed to be better in a variety of ways: more honest, intelligent, and successful. This attribution often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because authorities have been shown to treat better-looking people with more attention, encouragement, and support.
As pioneering social psychologist Fritz Heider (1958) explained: “We’re constantly told we shouldn’t judge others. Attribution theory says we can’t help it; we’re inundated with sensory data, some of it contradictory. Faced with this information overload, we make personality judgments in order to explain otherwise confusing behavior.”