Does where you meet affect first impressions?

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We investigated how emotionality of visual background context influenced perceptual ratings of faces. In two experiments participants rated how positive or negative a face, with a neutral expression (Experiment 1), or unambiguous emotional expression (happy/angry; Experiment 2), appeared when viewed overlaid onto positive, negative, or neutral background context scenes. Faces viewed in a positive context were rated as appearing more positive than when in a neutral or negative context, and faces in negative contexts were rated more negative than when in a positive or neutral context, regardless of the emotional expression portrayed. Notably, congruency of valence in face expression and background context significantly influenced face ratings. These findings suggest that human judgements of faces are relative, and significantly influenced by contextual factors.

Source: “Does it matter where we meet? The role of emotional context in evaluative first impressions.” from Can J Exp Psychol. 2010 Jun;64(2):107-16.

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