We see first impressions all throughout Bel Canto. Very few of the characters actually knew each other before the birthday party for Mr. Hosokawa, so almost every character has been making first impressions of each character they come in contact with. Gen’s opinion of Carmen continues to change as the story unfolds. First he thought she was just a young boy like all the rest, next and more recently he has started to fall for her once he realized she was a girl, but early on in chapter six he questioned who she was. He placed negative assumptions on things she may have done in her past, but still recognized that she was unique as “He couldn’t stop wondering how a girl like that had come through the air conditioner vents with criminals.” (p.210) The characters aren’t the only ones formulating first impressions. We also as the readers have made first impressions as Anne Patchett introduced the characters. However, she makes it a clear objective to change our first impressions as we continue to read. The question I have is why is it so easy sometimes to override first impressions when we are wrong, but other times it is so difficult even when we realize we were wrong?
It all boils down to whether our first evaluation of the person was explicit or implicit. Explicit evaluations are much easier to reverse, because they are not as strong as implicit evaluations. Explicit evaluations tend to be more at the forefront of our conscious minds, they are the opinions that we are clearly aware of. These thoughts are used by many scientists to explain and also predict deliberate behavior of individuals (Sritharan and Gawronski). These are the acts that we knowingly decide to do and have complete control over our decision to do them. It is much easier to predict how someone will act in a situation if they are more self-aware of how they feel, and what opinions they have about a certain topic or person. To give an example, it would be like if I were to say “I like football”. Since I know that I like football, it is also easier for my opinion to change over time and become “I don’t like football”. The new things that I may discover about football are more easily deciphered and can more efficiently change the way I feel about the sport.
Implicit evaluations however are very different. They too are often times conscious thoughts or actions, but we have less control over them. These are measured indirectly by scientists which means that they take a stimulus and see if the perception of that stimulus facilitates a response to another, unrelated stimulus (Mann and Ferguson). Often times this type of evaluation is further beneath in our minds, because it is derived from memories. Memories and experiences that we go through play an important role in how we react in certain situations. They also play a massive role in formulating the opinions that we have about various topics. Implicit evaluations are much harder to change, because they are not surface level thoughts, and they are more of an integral part of who we are and what we believe.
Much of the studies done on explicit and implicit evaluations have been done on the topic of racism and prejudice. Particularly psychologists have studied a lot about implicit evaluation and it’s affects on racism and prejudices since the 1980’s (Sritharan and Gawronski). A lot of people are starting to suppress or deny their prejudices, because of the fact that it is socially unacceptable to be prejudice. Individuals are starting to place comments like “I’m not racist” right before saying a completely racist comment. This allows them to truly believe that they aren’t making a racist comment, but often times they know their intentions and still choose to suppress those feelings of realization, which makes their evaluations implicit.
Gen’s negative thoughts about Carmen most likely derived from implicit evaluations. He started to place attributes on her that he actually thought of terrorists or child soldiers. These assumptions he made of her were most likely caused by the experiences he had had in his life, or maybe even just by the influences that those around him had on him, like Messner. Messner has made several comments about these types of hostage takeovers, and the individuals involved, and maybe now Gen is placing those attributes on to Carmen.
How do we break past implicit evaluations to where we can see the facts and be more open to change? Can we make it to where when we choose to we can uncover our evaluations and resurface them to become explicit evaluations that we can then deal with more efficiently? I want to find out more research on how to do this. I found very little, but I want more so I can start to do this in my own life.
- Mann, Thomas C., and Melissa J. Ferguson. “Can We Undo Our First Impressions? The Role of Reinterpretation in Reversing Implicit Evaluations.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 108.6 (2015): 823-49. Web. 7 Oct. 2015. <http://web.b.ebscohost.com.librarylink.uncc.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=6&sid=8195c678-f8f8-426b-8f02-3d4dc6859770%40sessionmgr110&hid=128&bdata=JmxvZ2luLmFzcCZzaXRlPWVob3N0LWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=2015-12430-001&db=pdh>.
- Sritharan, Rajees, and Bertram Gawronski. “Changing Implicit and Explicit Prejudice.” Social Psychology 41.3 (2010): 113-23. Web. 7 Oct. 2015. <http://web.b.ebscohost.com.librarylink.uncc.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=c36cb6ed-fe1b-461a-b376-5671f81de0ad%40sessionmgr115&hid=128&bdata=JmxvZ2luLmFzcCZzaXRlPWVob3N0LWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=2010-17202-002&db=pdh>.
- Petty, Richard E., and Pablo Briñol. “A Metacognitive Approach to “implicit” and “explicit” Evaluations: Comment on Gawronski and Bodenhausen (2006).” Psychological Bulletin 132.5 (2006): 740-44. Web. 7 Oct. 2015. <https://www.uam.es/otros/persuasion/papers/2006%20Psych%20Bulletin%20-MCM-.pdf>.