Why First Impression Matters
Did you know that people just use a few seconds to evaluate you when they first see you? In this short time the other person forms an opinion about you based on your appearance, how you talk, your body language, and how you are dressed. These first impression can be nearly impossible to reverse or undo, making those first encounters extremely important. These first encounters set the tone for all the relationships that follows.
Why do we immediately like some people and dislike others on first meeting them, sometimes without even knowing the reasons? The impressions we make of other people is based on cognitive representations, which is a term used to describe the body of knowledge and individual has stored in his or her memory. When we meet people for the first time we start to search for visible cues that make it easier to form our impressions of them. These cues may be described as hints that make the world easier to organize and understand. The cues you look after may be a persons’ physical appearance, nonverbal communication, or whether you spot some familiarity. The purpose of forming impressions of other people is to better guide us through our actions.
Human beings have a tendency to see things in patterns and categorize information. This is well-known within cognitive psychology. Many studies of how people percept the physical world, have shown how the brain structure information. Structuring makes the world easier to understand and get a grip on. The human tendency to categorizing may also lead to negative outcomes such as seeing thing in black and white. This is main cause of prejudice and racism.
Personal criteria and first impressions
Several psychological studies have showed that there are certain objective criteria all individuals search for when they meet a new person. Although, this is certainly correct the picture is more nuanced than this. Individual psychology was a school developed by Alfred Adler, and from this perspective first impression depends on whether a person can help us to reach specific goals. Since peoples’ goals and experiences vary a lot from person to person there are no universal rules. People may interpret the cues differently, since they have no meaning in themselves. This means that how we interpret our cues depends on our stored knowledge and earlier experience of people, behaviors, traits, and social situations.
For example, if a man has good experiences with blonde women he may unconsciously have a tendency to form more favorable first impressions of blondes than of brunettes. His first impression is colored by previous his experience, while his bias doesn’t say anything objectively about women who are blonde or brunette.
Sometimes it is difficult to get a consistent and stable impression of a person. Maybe your impression changes from moment to moment while you are with this person. If this person sends out ambiguous cues it is hard for your brain to organize the information. This may explain the mystery of mysterious people.