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Stephen & Read (1998) state that impression formation is the process through which people perceive, organize, and eventually incorporate information to form cohesive rational situated impressions of other people. The information deemed vital and worthy of an individual’s interest or attention is conditioned by internalized anticipations for situated actions. Additionally, these anticipations/ expectations are responsible for the way an individual will deduce the information. When individuals interact on face-to-face basis, their initial impressions towards each other will be determined by a combination of information in their memory and social cues entailing their verbal and non-verbal behavior, their physical appearance, nature of the settings in which the encounter takes place. The first impression in most cases determines the succeeding provenance.
There are a number of theories that have been presented to explain impression formation. Of all the theories, there are only three that have come out strongly with key findings concerning the issue, they include: affect control theory, social cognition theory and expectation states theory. Each of these theories’ research has a specific area that it handles to address impression formation (Bodenhausen, 2003). For instance, the social cognition theory gives clarifications of general information collecting and its processing. Consequently, it studies cognitive processes and compositions which influence and also get influenced by social behavior. There are two main concepts existing within the theory which are performance expectations and status characteristics.
On the other hand, the expectations states theory provides further insights concerning integration of information. This theory has been viewed by scholars as one of the leading explanations to social influence in the field of sociological social psychology. It has mainly been used to investigate different aspects in group interaction and the impressions that are formed thereafter (Stephen & Read, 1998).
Lastly, the affect control theory other than providing mathematical formula (calculus) that can be tested to predict the results, outlines the significance of affective implications to the impression formation process (Bodenhausen, 2003).