What we thought about the person in the first minutes of our acquaintance, can affect our future actions and relationships. Therefore, before an interview, going to a new job or an important acquaintance, we often worry and think about how to make the same "first impression" on others. We will tell you how people generally got the habit of making hasty conclusions about strangers and what our face and facial expressions can actually say about us (spoiler - about nothing).
Watch your posture, smile, look your partner in the eye - these and many other tips are given by the media, coaches and "interpersonal communication specialists" when it comes to first impressions. Some sources claim that if you come for an interview, you only have 30 seconds to please your future boss. Others are scary: in fact, you only have half a second left. You don't even have to try to impress: your appearance, eye color and facial expression will do everything for you.
The authors of "advice" rarely mention that the first impression is based mainly on prejudices and stereotypes. It is often wrong and unfair. Each of us probably has several stories about how a new acquaintance at first glance seemed much worse than it really was (or vice versa).
“In ninth grade, I came to a new school,” writes a Reddit user. - One of the students was supposed to meet me in the morning and show everything. When I saw her, I thought, "Ugh, this is one of those popular cheerleaders, I don't like her." But after a month she became my best friend, and since then we have been inseparable. " Another user says: “At school I saw a girl who seemed to me like a gray mouse - unremarkable, modest. She seemed to do everything in order not to stand out from the crowd and seem “right”. One day she suddenly asked me for a phone number and began to write me obscene, downright outrageous messages. For a long time I could not believe that it was her. " Another story: “When I first met my best friend, I thought she was the Snow Queen, very reserved and angry. Then we became friends on social networks, and it turned out that we have a lot in common. Later I realized that she was not "cold" - just careful with strangers."
Language of the body
Nevertheless, many are inclined to trust the first impression, some even boast: "It never deceives me." At the end of the 20th century, the concept of first impressions became especially popular, thanks in large part to Allan Pisa, the author of the book Body Language.
At 18, Pease began his career as a sales agent, knocking on people's homes and offering them pillowcases and kitchen utensils. Gradually, he developed his own sales method, went to work for an insurance company and by the age of 21 he became the youngest Australian to sell insurance for a million dollars.
Gradually, Pease retrained himself as an "expert in interpersonal communications." He explained that the secret of success is to immediately make the “right” impression on a client when meeting a client. To do this, you need to know how to stand, move, smile in order to win over a person.
“40 years ago, the first requirement for employment was education. Experience came second. Modern research shows that today experience is in fifth place, education is in seventh, and in the first is the impression that you make at the first contact. When you first meet a person, 90% of the information you need you get in the first four minutes of communication with him, - says Pease.
Pease explained: the secret of success is to immediately make the "right" impression on a client when meeting a client.
His methods can hardly be called scientific, and Pisa's theories are based primarily on personal experience. Nevertheless, his books have been translated into 50 languages, and his TV show about "body language" has been watched by hundreds of millions of people. Not surprisingly, many people find his ideas tempting. Indeed, at first glance, the teachings of Pisa promise success and mountains of gold to everyone who learns to take "open poses" and look the other person in the eye. Few people think that Pease himself, in order to achieve success, not only smiled "correctly", but also worked hard in low-paid jobs, developing his own sales method.
The concept of first impressions isn't just used in sales. Today, both law enforcement agencies and large companies resort to the services of so-called "profilers" - people who, by the facial expressions and behavior of a person, determine his intentions and inclinations. For example, the profiler Ilya Stepanov says that he worked with the security services at the Bishkek airport: he taught them to identify “suspicious passengers” in a crowd by their clothes and facial expressions.
Moscow profiling schools conduct their own courses and promise everyone: “In just two minutes you can“read”a person: his qualities and values, habits and characteristics …”. The price of the issue is 70,000 rubles for 176 lessons.
What other people really think of you
People really tend to draw conclusions about each other from the very first seconds they meet. But to what extent these conclusions can be trusted is a completely different question. Alexander Todorov, a professor of psychology at Princeton University, explains: the habit of building a first impression appeared in people no more than eight thousand years ago, that is, in comparison with the history of mankind, recently.
In a primitive society, there was no special need for this - people communicated mainly within their communities and tribes. But the further civilization developed, the more people had to deal with strangers. Gradually, relying on positive and negative experience, a person learned as quickly as possible to assess the intentions of each new interlocutor: whether he is going to attack or come in peace, whether he is deceiving or telling the truth.
“When we see a stranger, the first thing we do is try to understand three things about him,” says Todorov. - Is he cute, is he inclined to dominate and can he be trusted. - We do it unconsciously, even if we know that appearance is not an indicator. This is exactly what our ancestors did - they did it to defend themselves and reproduce."
In prehistoric times, when people from different tribes got to know each other, the priority was not the correctness of judgments, but their speed. It was much safer to chase away the suspicious stranger, just in case, instead of giving him a chance. So people from the very beginning built the first impression of each other biased - if at least something in the appearance of another person seemed alarming to them, they preferred not to mess with him. This is where a lot of prejudice came from.
Primitive man learned to quickly assess the intentions of the interlocutor: whether he was going to attack or came in peace
For example, today the idea that the width of the chin indicates a person's dominance seems absurd. But in prehistoric times, there was some logic in this. After all, the strongest and strongest members of the communities were engaged in hunting and waging wars. Upon seeing a stranger, the first thing a person looked at was his appearance: does he have broad shoulders, is he a strong physique? Is he capable of attacking? Traits that are commonly called "masculine" were associated with strength and dominance.
As Todorov explains, this stereotype is deeply ingrained in our consciousness. Seeing a person with a wide chin, many can still unconsciously conclude that he has a tendency to dominate. Moreover, according to studies, in men this quality is often perceived as positive, and in women - as negative.
At different times, scientists from different countries have conducted dozens of studies that reveal biases like the "dominant chin." For example, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Northeastern asked a group of volunteers to watch five-minute videos of people talking to each other. The participants in the experiment were asked to rate how smart the participants of the videos, in their opinion, are. Most of the volunteers considered the smartest people who looked into the eyes of their interlocutors more often. Other studies have shown that more often than not, we distrust people who avoid eye contact with us.
Another stereotype associated with the eyes: as if their color is somehow connected with a person's temperament. A group of biologists from Charles University in Prague conducted a study: 62 people participated in it, half were men, half were women. The volunteers were asked to look at 42 photographs of people and guess which of them is prone to dominant behavior. At the same time, in the photographs, all models had a neutral facial expression. It turned out that men with brown eyes were considered more dominant by volunteers than men with light eyes. No such correlation was found among female models.
It turned out that men with brown eyes were considered more dominant by volunteers than men with light eyes.
Scientists continued the experiment: they "recolored" the eyes of the participants using Photoshop. But the results haven't changed. Volunteers continued to regard brown-eyed men as "dominant", even if their eyes were now blue. As the author of the study, Karel Kleisner, explained, it may not be a matter of eye color, but of facial features. Among those with brown eyes, people with broader faces and larger features are more common - this is due to genetics. It is these people who are more often perceived as “aggressive” and “domineering”.
Often people draw conclusions about the nature of others, based on their own conservatism. In 2012, a group of researchers from different countries conducted an experiment: 440 volunteers had to look at photographs of strangers and try to guess their level of intelligence at random. The pictures showed portraits of people without piercings, with one piercing or with several. It turned out that the volunteers considered people with piercings to be "stupider", and this primarily concerned men. The more earrings and “studs” they had on their faces, the lower the volunteers rated the level of their intelligence.
Another example: Researchers at the University of Liverpool asked 94 girls and 76 boys to look at photos of 16 women and try to guess how sexually active they are, whether they are prone to casual relationships and whether they like alcohol. It turned out that most of the respondents assume that there is some kind of connection between tattoos, cravings for alcohol and a woman's sex life.
In general, when making up the first impression of someone, we tend to evaluate a number of signs: the so-called "non-verbal signals" ("body language"), facial expressions and the location of wrinkles, appearance. At first glance, it seems that they cannot be compared with each other: if brown eyes are in no way connected with a person's character, then the smile on his face definitely says something. But, as Alex Todorov explains, body language is an equally unfair generalization.
“You run the risk of drawing a conclusion about a person only by how he looks and moves at the moment,” says the psychologist. A closed posture, lowered corners of the lips - perhaps these are not permanent features of your new acquaintance, but only signs of what state he is in. Perhaps the person whose face looks stupid to you just hasn't slept in days. Relying too much on "non-verbal cues" can make a big mistake and give up an important and enjoyable acquaintance.
Six months of delusions
The first impression is formed instantly and almost spontaneously - according to features that can hardly be called objective. At the same time, it remains with us for a long time. Psychologist Vivian Zayas from Cornell University believes that the effect of the first meeting with a person can affect us for another six months. In her experiment, Zayas asked 55 volunteers to look at photographs of four different women and try to rate their attractiveness, guess how friendly, emotionally stable and responsible each of these women is.
Then each participant in the experiment met with one of the women from the photographs. The meetings took place 1–6 months after the first stage of the experiment. After that, the volunteers were again asked to answer questions about their new acquaintances. It turned out that the participants in the experiment only confirmed their opinions.
Zayas herself believes that her experiment is an illustration of how the effect of "self-fulfilling prophecy" works. We look at someone's photograph and evaluate the person's appearance based on our own stereotypes and prejudices. If a person seems to us nice and friendly, we communicate with him openly and politely, he reciprocates us - we are affirmed in this opinion.
At the same time, the participants in the experiment made their initial impressions just by looking at the photo, that is, they were guided only by the appearance of women. As Zayas explains, in such cases the "halo effect" works - when we attribute to a nice person all those qualities that seem good to us. “When we see an attractive person with a certain authority, we automatically assume that their marriage is stronger and their children are happier,” says Zayas.
The "halo effect" works with first impressions - when we attribute to a nice person all those qualities that seem good to us
Scientists around the world are conducting hundreds of experiments to find out what prejudices and stereotypes help us form first impressions. But there are very few experiments that investigate how true this impression is. Psychologist Dave Kenny of the University of Connecticut conducted an experiment with 250 students. The volunteers were divided into groups of four, so that in each group there were no people who knew each other. The participants were asked to rate themselves and their classmates according to several parameters: extraversion, complaisance, responsibility, calmness and intelligence level. It turned out that the most responsible and open people around consider those who consider themselves responsible and open.
However, this also proves little. “A lot of movie stars think of themselves as shy,” says Dave Kenny. "But they greatly overestimate the degree of their shyness." Perhaps one of the biggest problems with first impressions is that its veracity is difficult to measure. Shyness, extraversion, dominance - all these are qualities that do not lend themselves to precise calculations, do not fit into charts and graphs, and often depend on the subjective views of the observer. Whether or not you consider a person to be shy most often depends on what you personally consider to be shy.
You can trust the first impression, you can not trust it. But globally, the very concept of first impression is inevitable. Employers, strangers from "Tinder" and random people will judge us from photos and try to guess our character from our facial expressions and the shape of our eyebrows. According to psychologist Alex Todorov, this tendency is quite harmful and it would be great if its harm was minimized. For example, companies might interview job seekers through a screen. “When in the 60s and 70s auditions for orchestras began to be carried out blindly, the number of women in them immediately increased,” recalls Todorov.
Photos: Moon Picnic (1, 2)