First Impressions: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

The ‘cover’ we wear, appearance or behavior, can often misrepresent what actually lies between our pages.



Why do we always end up building first impressions and let them lead our journey with someone? We tend to get attached to our initial impression of people; even if we’ve seen them through experiences that negate that it. That is why you should be aware of the impression you make on others because, unintentionally, it will certainly be engraved in their mind.

In Psychology, a first impression is an event when one person first meets another and forms a mental image of him, depending on the observer and the observed.  First impressions are based on a wide range of characteristics: Age, race, culture, physical appearance, voice tone, body posture, and the number of people present. So, you have to keep in mind that it only takes a quick glance for someone to form a first impression of. you based on how you talk, dress, smile, your body language, your physical appearance, and even the way you walk. Is it fair to stick to these outside factors and judge someone without even getting to know them? Whenever you meet someone new, you don’t know what they’re dealing with in their own lives. Maybe they’re having a rough morning, or maybe they’re new at the place, but with time, they will reveal their inner beauty.

Here are some attributes that show why people misjudge others based on their first impressions:

A) Voice tone:

“From the first word you hear a person speak, you start to form this impression of the person’s personality,” says Phil McAleer, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

In an experiment led by McAleer, he recorded 64 people, from both genders, reading a paragraph that included the word “hello”. He then gathered all the hellos and got 320 other participants to listen to the different voices and categorize them on 10 different personality traits, such as trustworthiness, objectiveness, confidence and peacefulness. The result was that the participants largely agreed on which voice matched which personality trait. But according to him, it doesn’t really matter whether voice tones accurately reflect a speaker’s true personality. What matters is that there was so much agreement over these traits.

B) Physical appearance:

In a study conducted by psychologists at Sonoma State University and the University of Texas at Austin, observers viewed full-body photographs of 123 people they had never met before. The results were compared to the results of 3 people who already knew the observed participants well. Whether you smile and how you stand are important factors. Extroverts smile more, stand energetically, and look healthy and stylish, while people who are more open to new experience are less likely to have a healthy appearance but mostly stick to formal wear. These researches successfully proves that a person’s looks influence how people think about him, but it has nothing to do with personality.

C) Body posture – Body movements and position:

Do you move with confidence and an upright body position? Is your head hanging down or held upright? Is your walk steady, too fast or too slow? All these factors can influence what impression people get from you. If you’re that person who stands confidently, you’ll probably be regarded as arrogant and someone who thinks he’s always above others, not as someone who’s just self-confident. In a series of experiments, John Thoresen, Quoc Vuong, and Anthony Atkinson asked participants to judge personality traits on the basis of body movements alone. The scientists first videotaped male and female volunteers as they walked roughly 25 feet, and from these videos, they eliminated any kind of information about the walkers except for their pattern of movement, conveyed in the form of two-dimensional stick-figures. Participants in these studies rated each walker based on six trait scales: adventurousness, extraversion, neuroticism, trustworthiness, warmth, and approachability. Despite the general agreement in the ratings, the impressions were deceiving as the judgments made by raters did not correspond to the walkers’ self-reports. The results suggest that in the absence of acquaintance, people can’t use only minor information to form impressions about personality traits.

D) Social status, age, race and culture:

It isn’t surprising that these factors affect people’s first impression on you. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), people are always judging others based on physical appearance. People with attractive faces and high socioeconomic status  are regarded as more outgoing and socially competent, while people with unattractive faces are always perceived negatively. Moreover, the high masculinity in male faces indicate fitness because it demonstrates an ability to withstand stress, while females find it difficult to control their facial expressions, which also influences first impressions. Also, youthfulness is related to fitness as much as aging is related to declines in cognitive and physical functioning. This proves that there are many factors that influence your first impression of others, like their facial expressions and age. Being attractive or not has nothing to do with having a good personality as that’s only an outer layer that you should never judge people by.

 

To sum up, first impressions aren’t something to avoid because we will always leave an impression on someone on first contact, but that’s just minor information that we shouldn’t use to make conclusions about other people. We shouldn’t let these impressions mislead us. If all friendships were based on first impressions, there would be a lot less of them in the world. First impressions are often the worst means of judging a person because it’s not until you get to really know a person, that you become better equipped to understand what kind person they truly are, and really know the individual based on their real values, rather than their first impression, or their “book cover.”

 

References:

1) First Impressions Count When Making Personality Judgments, New Research Shows.” UT News | The University of Texas at Austin, 3 Nov. 2009, news.utexas.edu/2009/11/03/impressions_personality.

2) Insider, Gus Lubin Business. “Here’s How People Judge You Based on Your Face.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 27 Sept. 2016, www.independent.co.uk/news/science/here-s-how-people-judge-you-based-on-your-face-a7333406.html.

3) May, Cindi. “What Does the Way You Walk Say about You?” Scientific American, 10 Oct. 2012, www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-does-the-way-you-walk-say-about-you/

4) Trudeau, Michelle. “You Had Me At Hello: The Science Behind First Impressions.” NPR, NPR, 5 May 2014, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/05/05/308349318/you-had-me-at-hello-the-science-behind-first-impressions.