According to recent studies, people are inclined to form an impression of one another within just seven seconds of meeting them. So whether you are meeting a new boss, colleague or a potential buyer for your home, you have a limited amount of time in which to create a positive impression and influence favorable perceptions.
During this relatively brief period of time, people are likely to forge a number of important and specific judgements about your personality traits, values and level of success. Psychologists refer to this as “thin slicing,” and the impressions formed within nine to 10 seconds of meeting someone can be difficult to correct or override.
With this in mind, here are ten swift and initial judgements that individuals make when they first meet you.
1. If you’re trustworthy
Let’s start at the beginning, as research conducted at Princeton University has revealed that people determine the trustworthiness of others within a tenth of a second of meeting them.
This result was achieved by comparing two groups of students, one of which had 100 milliseconds to rate the competence, likeability, aggressiveness and trustworthiness of an actor based on their face. The second group had an open-ended amount of time to rate the same faces, and while the responses varied across three of these traits trustworthiness was ranked the same by both.
These findings seem to confirm that the human brain automatically responds to visual stimulus when assessing trustworthiness, before an individual’s face has been consciously perceived.
2. If you’re confident
This is another of the eight unconscious impressions that are formed within seconds of meeting someone, and it is usually influenced by individual mannerisms and body language. Much of the data to support this was produced during a a famous communications study by UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian in 1971, with these findings remaining true to this day.
As human beings, we tend to evaluate confidence based on the way in which people walk and first initiate contact with others. Individuals who walk upright and with a purposeful gait give the impression of self-assuredness, for example, as do those who carry their head high and maintain eye contact.
Conversely, people who place their hands in their pockets or behind their back showcase a lack of confidence or certainty in their own ability.
3. If you’re high status
While it is well-known that the way we dress influences people’s perception of us, there has been less research into the precise impact that high-end, designer clothing has in the minds of others.
This has been explored in a recent Dutch study, however, which found that people wearing brand name clothing were considered to be higher in status than those who wore non-designer attire. While this may not come as a huge surprise, it is interesting to note the difference in clothing did not impact the perceived attractiveness and kindness of the subjects.
This seems to suggest that the impression is formed simply from the visual impact of the clothing and the perceived link between wealth and social standing.
4. If you’re successful
On a similar note, the findings of a collaborative study between Britain and Turkey also draw a strong correlation between the clothes that we wear and our perceived success as individuals.
More specifically, it showed the participants images of men in tailored suits for just five seconds, before presenting the same individuals in off-the-peg garments. Despite the body shapes and faces of the individuals being the same, the group overwhelmingly rated those in tailored suits as being the more successful. These findings also seem to reaffirm the link between wealth, clothing, and our social standing.
For anyone with the financial means who is attending a job interview or an important business meeting, tailored suits therefore offer the most effective way of forging a positive impression.
5. If you’re extroverted
While there are numerous physical factors that underpin body language, the handshake remains the most well-researched and discussed. Perhaps the most in-depth study was carried out at the University of Alabama, having been commissioned in 2000 and subsequently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
This study revealed that a confident and firm handshake correlated strongly with specific character traits, including “openness to new experiences” and, most tellingly, extroversion. So those with a strong and purposeful grip convey openness and an overt sense of confidence, whereas those who do not give off feelings such as anxiety, uncertainty, and in some extreme instances, neuroticism.
The importance of a firm handshake has also been discussed in research papers, with a study conducted at the University of Iowa revealing that this has a greater influence than dress or appearance when forging an impression.
6. If you’re smart
We have already referenced the importance of eye contact when giving the impression of strength and confidence, although this also influences the way in which your intelligence is perceived. According to a 2007 study conducted by Loyola Marymount University Professor Nora A. Murphy, the ability to look your conversation partner directly in the eye is a key indicator of mental aptitude and smartness.
In her research paper, she wrote, “Looking while speaking is a key behavior. It significantly correlated with IQ and contributed to higher perceived intelligence ratings.” Additional findings also revealed that the ability to speak clearly and expressively was also important, as was the use of grammatically sound language. It is also believed that it is easy to create a false impression of intelligence, simply by manipulating these proven metrics.
7. If you’re dominant
Over time, popular culture has challenged the perception of baldness and afforded it a strong association with physical and mental fortitude. Bald Hollywood icons such as Bruce Willis and Vin Diesel have played a pivotal role in this transition, with their portrayal as tough, masculine, and physically dominant heroes extremely influential.
This is also supported by a number of modern day studies, which indicate that bald men (or more specifically those who have shaved their heads) are rated as more dominant than others with a full head of hair. These individuals are also seen as being taller and stronger than their authentic selves, enabling them to make a positive and potentially misleading first impression on others.
It is important to note that these findings highlighted a clear distinction between shaved heads and those who were naturally bald; however, anyone who is beginning to lose their hair may benefit from being proactive and removing it intentionally.
8. If you’re adventurous
There are a number of fascinating and unique travel experiences available in the modern age, from building igloos in the French Alps to Husky tours in Finland. These trips require a freedom of spirit and a keen sense of adventure, and according to research, it is possible to judge if others have these characteristics within seconds.
Thanks to the findings of a study conducted at Durham University, we can surmise that there is a strong link between the way in which people walk and their underlying sense of adventure. During the research, participants were shown brief video footage of 26 other students walking. Some of these had loose, fluid gaits, while other moved in tighter, less expressive movements.
After just a few seconds of viewing, the former were categorized as being slightly extrovert and adventurous, while the latter were labelled as anxious and potentially neurotic.
Featured photo credit: Greyer Baby – Pixabay via pixabay.com