A lot of the key articles in psychology on the topic of trust have really come out in the 21st century. And one really key article that emerged in 2006 was a study in Psychological Science by Willis and Todorov.
Willis and Todorov conducted a really elegant study that simply discovered the remarkable finding that trust is something that people tend to judge in another person’s face within 100 milliseconds.
How they conducted this study was they gave participants a variety of different faces—they exposed participants to a variety of different male and female faces. The first part of the study just involved an unconstrained session where participants made various judgments about these faces. How attractive is the person in this photograph? How likeable is the person in this photograph? And how trustworthy is the person in this photograph?
In the second portion of the study, participants were presented with the same faces extremely rapidly. So, some were presented at 100 milliseconds; some were presented at 500 milliseconds; and some were presented at 1 second.
Various participants, after this brief exposure to the face, were simply asked the question, “Do you find this person trustworthy, yes or no?”
What they found was very striking! First of all, there was an extremely high correlation between these snap judgments of, “Do I judge this person as trustworthy, yes or no?” after just a brief exposure to a face—a monumental correlation with those judgments and the judgments made in the absence of time constraints.
This suggests that people are making judgments about trustworthiness within 100 milliseconds!
Also interesting was that, as time increased (so, as participants saw these faces at 500 milliseconds or after a whole second), the correlation didn’t really change that much.
What these findings tell us is that trustworthiness is something that people judge very automatically, even before we’ve gotten our wits together to really decide how confident we are in our judgment. And, they really correspond to the same judgments we make about trustworthiness when we have unlimited time to judge people.
Regardless if your handsome or beautiful (which has no relative bearing) you are, how are you presenting yourself to your patients? Have no fear … you have 100 milliseconds and the decision has been made!