The Emerging Science of People-Watching: Forming Impressions From Third-Party Encounters

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Traditional impression formation studies have focused almost exclusively on the perception and evaluation of isolated individuals. In recent years, however, portrayals of third-party encounters between two (or more) people have been used increasingly often to probe impressions about the interactions and relations between individuals. This tacit paradigm change has revealed an intriguing scope of judgments that concern how and why people relate to one another. Though these judgments recruit well-known neural networks of impression formation, their underlying cognitive operations and functional significance remain largely speculative. By providing an overview of recent theoretical and empirical approaches on encounter-based impressions, this article highlights their prevalent role in human social cognition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-389
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number4
Early online date9 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

Structured keywords

  • Cognitive Science
  • Social Cognition


  • person perception
  • social neuroscience
  • third-person perspective


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