The Frontal Cortex

First Impressions

How universal are our first impressions of people? Test yourself against this piece of video art:

Do you agree with most of the descriptions? The art is surprisingly riveting, no?

Via kottke


  1. #1 peggy
    January 10, 2008

    Absolutely fascinating. I’m bowled over by this. Amazing how differently the same person is perceived by different observers. As I watched the video, the faces that recurred looked different the second time, maybe due to their familiarity.
    Interesting also to ponder the relationship between how a person thinks they look and what they project to others.
    And nobody seems to like kids much, innit?

  2. #2 Sorta
    January 10, 2008

    That poor kid — The rest of the people must be stepparents.

    I disagreed with almost all of the impressions.

    Amazing piece. Thanks!

  3. #3 Pawlie Kokonuts
    January 10, 2008

    Intriguing. I didn’t / don’t know what to “conclude,” if anything. I sort of figured, at the end, there would be some series of captions, something like “serving life sentence for serial murders” for the innocent-looking ones, or “does volunteer work with HIV patients” for the so-called aggressive faces. That’s just me.

  4. #4 Rachael
    January 10, 2008

    Interesting. I think part of what was intriguing was comparing two faces so exactly side by side. I’m not sure whether it was intentional but it seemed like people were paired up with a great deal of similarity – similar symmetry of noses, shape of eyes, etc. It was fascinating to watch them make judgments about people who sometimes looked so similar to themselves. Then again, maybe I imagined that.

  5. #5 Aimee
    January 11, 2008

    A friend of mine is currently reading the book “Blink” by Malcom Gladwell, which discusses the impressions we make within the first two seconds of encountering someone or something. In the book he references Project Implicit (, a study being performed to “help people to gain greater awareness about their own unconscious preferences and beliefs.” Both the book and the research are so intriguing!!!

  6. #6 peggy
    January 11, 2008

    In some cases, it seemed like the person not speaking was listening to or could hear what the speaker was saying about him or her — but I couldn’t be sure of that. Do you know?
    When we meet someone, is it the emotional brain that reacts to visual and other sensory cues and then the rational brain that gives reasons for our gut instinct/snap judgement?

  7. #7 Daniel
    January 11, 2008

    Alot of the first impressions that people described were quite different from my first impression.

  8. #8 Anibal
    January 11, 2008

    Nice post, and a fantastic blend of what is like the unification of the arts and sciences, promoting the third culture.

  9. #9 Rachel
    January 11, 2008

    For me, what was most interesting was becoming aware that I was not only forming my own opinions about those being judged, but forming ideas about how each observer would judge each subject. There are so many layers to this re: how we see other people, ourselves, our own perceptions, and the perceptions of others.

  10. #10 Daniel
    January 13, 2008

    Wow. What an incredibly interesting art piece. I’ve never been one for first impressions. I judge people of course, I’m not saying I don’t but not by the red in people’s eyes… I didn’t notice it until it was pointed out at me. Does that mean I’m apathetic? Lazy? or maybe even unobservant? Each way you, the person reading this comment has already judged me based on what I’ve written in these 6-odd lines.

  11. #11 Riley
    January 13, 2008

    Brings me back to Blink!

  12. #12 Gareth
    January 15, 2008

    Not very universal at all, I’d say … except that one fellow truly _did_ look tired. I thought Mr. Clinically Dead was funny.

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