Trustworthy, dangerous or just plain boring, a split second is all it takes for our brain to decide what someone's personality is like. But is a first impression based on someone's appearance reliable? We all make that snap judgement about a person and it can be very hard to change it, even if we are presented with facts about the person that contradict what we first thought as we are forever attached to our first assumptions. These first impressions also greatly influence the way we treat other people and how they treat us in return. It's very rare for our initial opinion of a person to be correct; in other words our first impression of a person isn't always right.
What is a first impression? In psychology, it is the initial impression we have of another person when we meet them for the first time. However, a first impression is not to be confused with intuition! Intuition is our 'gut feeling' that we can have about something, possibly provoked without reason. It's been shown in a study that 55% of a person's opinion of someone is determined by physical appearance alone and 7% of what we think of others is based on what they say. In 2009 a study was done in Personality and Social Psychology and it showed that different factors ranging from clothing to voice tone can determine how an impression of someone is formed. We all place a lot of confidence in these 'hunches', even when confronted with the opposing evidence.
So, why do we judge someone so critically? The answer is simple: it's in our genes. Ever since the first caveman poked his head out of a cave we have needed to have a '6th sense'. We needed to judge quickly if an animal or another man was a friend or foe, and our next move, that was based on that decision, could prove to be fatal if wrong. However, today, psychology studies reveal that first impressions are formed within 7 to 17 seconds of meeting someone. Since throughout history we have become less and less likely to kill someone we have met, we therefore as a species dulled our primitive instincts. While our first impression may have some truth in it, our assumption is based on nothing but appearances. Moreover, according to a Cal Poly Study, addressing potential customers by their name or personalising marketing materials, greatly increases the likelihood that they will respond in kind by 36%. It's because people like it when you single them out, so next time you're helping a customer make sure to use their name if possible.
Furthermore, there may be other reasons for a person's outer personality. When someone acts angry towards you, you immediately judge that person as unfriendly or possibly dangerous. But this doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to act in an angered way towards you forever. This person may in facts simply be having a really bad. It is impossible to know everything about a person just by looking at them or meeting them once or twice but you can gain hints at what personality they may have. Personally I feel that we do not have the right to judge someone based on appearances solely, even though trying to stop myself from doing has (so far) proven to be an unachievable dream. Moreover, how do we know that this person doesn't have disabilities that cannot be seen from the outside or they have a 'wall' inside that hides their personality and therefore prevents them from fully expressing themselves?
It is also known that people can fabricate a new personality to use in public, one that people will want to see. We all know con-men, those people that purposely pretend to get along with you but have an alternate objective. These type of people love to act warm, charming and ostensibly seem to be a very 'you can trust me' type of person...only in reality it's all an act. This outer personality is actually a mask that is used to hide their true intentions. This works because all of us want to see 'the flawless person' who doesn't have any bad sides to their personality. However, we are sometimes known to get that odd feeling about a person we see - maybe this person has something about them that just gives you the shivers - and you may be right about this person, they may actually be a crook. An example of a famous con artist is Victor Lustig, who was renowned as the 'Man who sold the Eiffel Tower'. His most famous Con was in France, in World War II. He read in the newspaper one day that, due to the lack of resources with the war going on, the government couldn't keep the tower in good condition with what they could scavenge. He then, after devising a very clever plan, called a meeting with a group of scrap buyers and convinced them he was a government agent. He told the scrap buyers that the 'mission' was to be a top secret operation as the so called government didn't want riots or protests from the city's residents. A few of the scrap buyers actually paid him for the 'scrap' and he got away with their money before they had even noticed.
Now, why do we find it hard to change our opinion of someone that's based off of the first impression we get from them? Studies have shown that once these assumptions are formed, people are uncomfortable with changing their original conclusions of the man or woman in question. What we usually do is look more for some sort of validation in this person to confirm what we thought originally and we ignore evidence that can contradict our original assumptions. These conclusions we have of another will affect how we think and react to what they say and what they do. Even while knowing that changing our opinion of someone will take some hard work, it's still worth a try because that person underneath may be more interesting than what we first see on the outside.
Personally, while I do not support the fact that first impressions are alway right, I do feel that this impression is one of the most important ones that you can make. "You don't get a second chance to make a first impression," says James Uleman, researcher on impression management and a psychology professor at New York University. This is because, as I have said previously, a first impression is hard to change. For example: you meet a man and after a conversation with him you find that he acts too childish for his age. He then the next day solves a very complex maths equation that even you couldn't get your head around. You will still think he's childish except from when he's doing maths. In other words when we are presented with a new characteristic that contradicts what we first thought of this person, we will still revert to the negative view we have of that person.
A first impression of a person is not as reliable as we may think and that making a judgement of someone's personality and characteristics without actually getting to know them is a bad moral decision. However I have found that it is very difficult to change this opinion and it is impossible to stop ourselves from making these decisions, as it is in our nature as human beings to judge somebody or something on solely their looks.
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