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First Impressions

All About First Impressions

Human beings are built to size each other up quickly. In fact, first impressions snap into place in just seven seconds. These judgments are influenced by a number of factors, such as facial shape, vocal inflection, attractiveness, and general emotional state. We tend to get attached to our initial impressions of people and find it difficult to change our opinion of them. As a result, it’s important to be aware of how we come across to others during a first meeting. Then we can employ impression management skills—modulating any irritating traits and accentuating our strengths—to ensure that people have a more favorable opinion of us. Everything from clothing style and posture to conversational topics can be adjusted to form an ideal first impression.

The Halo Effect

The halo effect occurs when an initial judgment unconsciously colors our perception of the individual as a whole. Observing an initial feature—perhaps beauty or strength—creates a halo around the person, making it difficult to revise that impression based on new or opposing information. For example, an attractive individual may also be perceived as interesting, ambitious, or funny, while an unattractive individual may be more readily blamed for a crime. Aside from attraction, the halo effect also takes hold in politics, marketing, and academia, among other domains. However, it’s possible to avert potentially harmful consequences of the halo effect; professors can grade papers anonymously, for instance, to prevent prior information from influencing students’ grades. As one might expect, forming long term relationships also diffuses the halo effect, allowing new and varied information to create a deeper, nuanced, and more accurate portrait. 

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