Did you tend to think that quick judgment can be changed once you get to know better the other person? Think twice. According to a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, first impressions are hard to erase from our memories.
A team of American researchers, asked 55 people involved in the study, to judge 4 women based on their photos and to describe their impressions of extroversion, openness and emotional stability. A few months later, the participants were called back for another test, and without knowing it, they met one of the four women whose photo they had judged. Everyone spent 20 minutes with her to get to know each other better.
After their interaction, the participants answered the same questions as after watching the photo and gave their opinions about this woman. The results show that while a few people changed their minds, most were left with the first impression. The study’s authors suggest that nonverbal behavior may provide clues to this early judgment. If we have a good impression of a person, we tend to smile more and be warmer. The person in front will react accordingly.
“The problem is that we often build a pretty accurate picture of people with very little information.”
Alexander Todorov, Professor of Psychology.
Alexander, has been teaching psychology at Princeton University in New Jersey (USA) since 2002. Originally from Bulgaria, he studied psychology at Sofia, Oxford and New York University. He also talked in an interview with BMW about the psychology of first impressions and how it can be influenced by status symbols, such as cars.
“These impressions are literally formed at first sight. Looking at a face for less than half a second gives you enough “information” to form your own opinion. In fact, looking at the same face for longer will not change your judgment. And we are talking about judgments that have consequences, because they can determine whether the person in front of you is trustworthy or competent. (…) In order to form their opinion, people will take into account all the available information: gestures, clothes, general appearance. … We have control over how we dress and model our own style to present ourselves to others. These elements of our outward appearance are all indications of the social group to which we belong, for example, or seek to belong. ”
People, whether consciously aware of it or not, generally prefer others who are similar to themselves in look, personality, attitude, belief and behavior. Deviations in our appearance, speech and behavior are likely to affect the initial impression someone has of us (and we of them).
Fortunately, people also tend to think that others share their opinions and beliefs more than they actually do, so there’s a benefit of the doubt that one shouldn’t violate too soon by demonstrating our differences with someone we’re meeting for the first time.