THE SCIENCE OF THE FIRST IMPRESSIONS
A very popular saying says that you should not judge a book by the cover, but the truth is that we do it continuously, and it is also applicable at a sociological level: because we usually classify people according to our first impressions. Moreover, returning to the metaphor of the book, we tend to maintain our prejudices even after reading one or two chapters of the book; that is, after having interacted face to face with the prejudiced individual.
Numerous investigations show that people make a first impression of a stranger in a few seconds. That lapse of time is what is needed for us to form a first impression of a person we have just met. Also, we tend to use that impression to judge that person. But are we usually right?
Yes, although it’s strange, studies show that we are pretty natural at generating first impressions. In just seconds we can connect the pieces without the information provided by the other and frame an impression. However, first impressions, although natural, are rarely accurate. Their main advantage is that they help us to create expectations or design action plans: For example, to make the other person have a good impression of us. The negative is that there are too many assumptions in them that often take away the opportunity to really know the other person.
THE INFLUENCE OF SOCIETY AND CULTURE ON FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Although some people don’t agree with this, it’s very clear that we are consciously as well as unconsciously influenced by society and culture. What there is around us and our history of coexistence with it conditions that first impression that we keep in our brain; sometimes even without having processed it, and then we act according to it almost without realizing it.
Society tells us how to dress, how to act, how to talk and many of the elements that form part of this first impression are codified in this sense: we note if they correspond to what society approves (which may or may not coincide with what we approve or do not). Those who don’t will probably call us more attention and it will be an aspect that will stand out in that first impression. Therefore, we will code it faster. It’s these kinds of reactions, that we have towards the new, the strange, that will influence in some way our behavior towards the unknown.
And yes, we know. We are not only a first impression, we are not just an external image: each of us has a lot inside and we deserve that someone takes time to get to know us. We don’t fail too much with the first impression if we compare it with the impression we have after a few months. But we have to be very careful, since this happens with relationships that are not very close, such as the relationship of a teacher and a student for example. With deeper relationships, the truth is that this first image suffers many more changes over time, either because we are wrong or because the other person changes.
Undoubtedly the first impression reflects that a human being communicates not only through the word but also, through his physical appearance, his body posture, his facial features. The importance of making a good first impression can be so decisive that for this reason, anyone dresses according to the occasion in a job interview. Often, the first impression that a person takes of another is totally wrong because to know someone really, it’s essential to spend time in that relationship. Judging from appearances in most cases leads to an error. For this reason, prejudices that are limiting and irrational should be eliminated.
The desire to want to make a pleasant first impression shows the illusion of a person who has put some concrete expectations in a situation. A first impression may be important but will soon be refuted or supported by the experience of subsequent occasions.
1. How long it takes you to form a first impression about someone?
2. Do you make first impressions based on what people wear?
3. Someone used to say that “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression”. Do you agree with this? Why?