My academic research focused on first impressions -- the split-second judgments we make when first encountering objects or people. Although fleeting, these judgments have important consequences, guiding everything from romantic partner selection to criminal sentencing and product purchase decisions. I studied two aspects of first impressions: 

1) Perceptual Causes: What are the perceptual processes underlying first impressions? How do our brains translate basic sensory cues into evaluative judgments such as attractive/unattractive, friendly/hostile, or intelligent/unintelligent? What role does prior experience play in determining our preferences for some stimuli over others? 

2) Downstream Consequences: What are consequences of negative first impressions? How do targets of prejudice cope with negative evaluations from others? In particular, how do negative social experiences contribute to psychological and physiological health outcomes for members of marginalized groups? 

My research combined theories and methods from social psychology, cognition, vision science, and behavioral economics to address these questions. Dive deeper by checking out the publications below for a deeper look.


  • Alt, N. P., Lick, D. J., & Johnson, K. L. (In press). The straight categorization bias: A motivated and altruistic reasoning account. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

  • Pauker, K., Carpinella, C. M., Lick, D. J., Sanchez, D. T., & Johnson, K. L. (2018). Malleability in biracial categorizations: The impact of geographic context and targets’ racial heritage. Social Cognition, 36, 461-480.

  • Pachankis, J. E., & Lick, D. J. (In press). Sexual minority stigma and health. In B. Major, J. F. Dovidio, & G. Link (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Stigma, Discrimination, and Health (pp. 477-498). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

  • Lick, D. J., Carpinella, C. M., Preciado, M. A., Spunt, R. P., & Johnson, K. L. (2013). Reverse-correlating mental representations of sex-typed bodies: The impact of number of trials on image qualityFrontiers in Perception Science, 4, 476.

  • Lick, D. J., Tornello, S. L., Riskind, R. G., Schmidt, K. M., & Patterson, C. J. (2012). Social climate for sexual minorities predicts well-being among heterosexual offspring of lesbian and gay parents. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 9, 99-112.