“Can we change our implicit mind? New social-cognitive evidence for when and how we update implicit cognition”
The scientific as well as lay assumption about first impressions is that they are difficult to change. This is especially the case for implicit first impressions (those that are unintentionally and uncontrollably activated from memory). Decades of work from social cognition suggest that our implicit impressions of others (e.g., their goodness or badness), once formed, can be changed only with extensive, repeated exposure to counter-evidence. These types of impressions have been argued to be largely resistant to new evidence that involves propositional reasoning. This raises the possibility that our implicit impressions of others are not updated sufficiently with new learning and may therefore represent erroneous signals for how we should behave. In contrast with this view, our lab has shown that implicit impressions can be completely reversed when even a single piece of new propositional evidence is highly diagnostic of the target. Our findings show when implicit positive as well as negative first impressions can be reversed. This work reflects a new direction in research on learning, person perception, and implicit cognition, with implications for theory and practical interventions to decrease unwanted implicit impressions such as those related to temptation or prejudice.