When people form opinions about a person or a situation, those opinions are likely to be based on first impressions, on an initial assessment of the person or situation. In other words, the opinions we have of people or situations tend to be based much more on the first information we learn about them than on information we learn later. This tendency is called the primacy effect. Researchers believe that the primacy effect occurs because after people have made an initial judgment, they tend to notice evidence that supports that judgment, and disregard or fail to notice evidence that contradicts it.
<-NARRATOR:-> Now listen to part of a lecture on this topic in a psychology class.
<-MALE PROFESSOR:-> Here's an example...from my own life.
[pause]Before I started teaching,
I worked as a research assistant in a laboratory... for a year.
Well, during my very first week on the job,
I made a suggestion to my boss on how we could improve the way we were running an experiment.
My suggestion was a good one: the experiment was successful, and we got great results.
Anyway, that first week, because of that one experiment,
my boss decided,
perhaps without even realizing it...
he decided I was a great research assistant.
And he never changed his mind.
After that first week, I was...
I was okay, you know, average.
I was a good worker, but I also made mistakes-
But whenever my boss introduced me to someone, he'd say: this is John, our star research assistant.
But a coworker of mine, she wasn't as fortunate.
Her first week at the lab, she made a big mistake and the lab lost some important data.
We recovered the data, but it cost the lab time and money.
Well, our boss concluded that week that my coworker was unreliable...
incompetent. And he continued to think that.
But actually, after that week, she turned out to be a good research assistant,
probably better than me.
She made some other, small mistakes-
like I said, everyone does.
But our boss thought of her as unreliable...'
cause he only noticed her mistakes.
Using the two examples from the professor's lecture, explain what is meant by “the primacy effect” and how it can affect our opinions.