But now I’m going to play the song again for you and I’m going to give you context. Just like you saw the squares differently when I put the checkerboard there and when I took them away, I’ll put a checkerboard here, and now I am going to put some words here. You follow along with the words and listen to the same audio again, and see if you don’t hear these words. [Audio plays] So, now you heard the same thing that you heard before, but you heard a different reality.
Now you heard words and before you heard gibberish. So, which is it? Well, they really didn’t make these words backwards, but we take the music, and we match words that sound like the backward song. And when you have that context, your brain makes you think that it’s really there. So, this is an example of your unconscious processing at work again! I’m going to play again a little bit of the song for you, but just to show how automatic this is, I’m going to play the song, with the words again, the backward song. I want you to listen to it and read the words, but don’t hear the words! Try and hear as you did the first time, as gibberish. [Audio plays]
So, now, when you hear it and you watch the words, just like you couldn’t see the checkerboard and see those squares differently when you are looking at the checkerboard, you can’t avoid hearing the words, when you have the context there. So, these are examples of your unconscious mind and how it works, and how you have no control or awareness over its functioning.
But let’s talk about social perception, because that’s really where it is most interesting. And I want to convince you that our social perception is also not a direct construction from the data that you get about people, but uses a lot of other factors, such as your beliefs, your desires, your expectations, and the context to make a picture of other people and social situations.
This slide illustrates an experiment that was done in California. Researchers made flyers for the candidates in two fictitious political races. And on the flyers, they listed for the liberal candidate the qualifications and the views, and also for the conservative candidate data like that. But they also put a picture in for the liberal and for the conservative.
And then they had people come in to read these flyers and say, “Who would you vote for?”, if you are voting. And the difference is that half of the people saw flyers where the liberal was made to look more competent, and the conservative made to look less competent, and the other half saw flyers where it was the other way around. And so the question is, does the look of competence that was in these flyers affect the way people vote, or do they vote just on the data that they think they are voting on, which is the other data that was listed? And the result was very dramatic.
When the conservative candidate looked more competent, she got 58% of the votes. But when she looked less competent she got only 44%. So there was a 14% vote swing. So people thought that they were voting based on certain data, which was the hard data, but they were really also voting on looks. Of course, this was in a laboratory, so you might say, “Does it really happen in real elections?” And, fortunately, a Professor at Princeton decided to find out. In 2006, he collected pairs of head shots of the competing candidates in dozens of races around the United States. And then he got people from districts where these races were not being run in, people who didn’t know the candidates, just to look at the pairs of photos and rate who looks more competent.
So he had these people look at the pairs of photos and tell them who looks more competent, he took the statistics on that, and he predicted the outcome of all these races, based purely on looks. Not beauty or handsomeness, but the look of who is more competent. And how often was he correct? He was right 70% of the time. So, in 70% of the races around the United States, the candidate who looked more competent won the race. So, obviously, we are not just basing our vote on what we think we are basing it on, but our unconscious mind is pushing us to vote for people based on looks.
Another thing that influences a great deal is touch. All primates rely on touch to form bonds and trust with each other. Most primates spend hours a day grooming each other. Humans do it a little bit less and it’s much more subtle, but it really has an effect. So I am going to talk to you a little bit now about how you take in data from people, based on whether or not they touch you. And when I say “touch you,” I don’t mean a grope or a big hug. I’m talking about something as subtle as a quarter to half a second light touch on the elbow or the shoulder.