The first impression could be changed
There is a common quote that says that a person never gets a second chance to create a first impression. Psychologists define the first impression as an encounter of an individual with another individual who forms creates a mental picture of the other individual. Impressions can be different depending on the individual observer, and they are based on various characteristics including race, language, physical outlook, and voice. The first impression a person gives to another person could have a huge influence on how he or she is treated in a variety of social contexts (Naumann, L. P. et al.). Be it on a romantic date, job interview or any other social or formal setting, the first impression is key to how a person would be treated or viewed. As such, people always seek to create a perfect first impression in any particular social context. The topic of first impressions has often attracted many scholars in the field of psychology whereby it has sparked debates on whether the first impression could be changed. Some have come forth to argue that a first impression could be changed while others believe it is hard to change it. This paper analyses arguments on the first impression from both perspectives of proponents and opponents of its change. However, the author believes that first impressions create a default mental image that is hard to change.
Researchers have found out that a person can be judged based on many factors besides their look or voice; as such, there is a chance for a wrong judgment. However, a wrong impression can be changed in a matter of time. Once a person’s traits start to become clear in subsequent encounters, a person who had a wrong impression easily corrects the wrong judgment made to form a new good mental image of the other person (Naumann, L. P. et al.). For instance, in a panel of interviewers on a particular job, a candidate may fail to meet the expectations of one interviewer leading to a negative judgment. However, if the majority decides to give a job offer to the candidate, the interviewer who did not like the candidate at the first moment may learn that the candidate is extremely good with the best abilities in the workplace hence change his mind about him. According to Naumann, L. P. et al., the first impression may be powerful, but there are key characters that can be used to make it fade away. A Harvard study revealed that less than ten subsequent positive encounters are more than enough to clear a negative opinion of a person. However, to win a positive opinion, there is the need for persistence and consistency.
But then, based on Annie Drinkard’s press release, humans are basically programmed to judge a book by looking at the cover.The first impression on other people is so powerful that it can overturn what is told about these people. Studies by SPSP reveal that the first appearance shapes everything even if we end up liking a person after subsequent encounters (Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP)). It is difficult to change the first impression because when someone has a negative impression of another, he or she is unlikely to meet that person for the second time to change his or mind because he had made a negative judgment about that person already. That is to say, once a person dislikes your personal traits, he or he would avoid meeting you in the second time because of negative perception in the first encounter. This is explained using a principle in psychology that human minds are consistent. As per this principle, humans are not likely to change their mind even after subsequent positive encounters because having a new impression would be like admitting that they made a wrong decision or error; and normally, everyone wants to believe that they are right (Schafer, Jack).
Noah Rubinstein’s article ‘After First Impressions, Changing Perceptions is Difficult’ published on goodtherapy.org sheds more light on how changing the first impression may be more complicated than people think. Studies have shown that our first impression on other people is an automatic or default perception on our minds. Even after learning newer positive information that is bound to change the initial perception, our brains does not alter the initial perception but rather considers it an exception (Rubinstein, Noah). For instance, a new colleague at the workplace may present himself in a way that makes you have a negative opinion of him but with time you engage in a casual conversation while at the gym and you happen to see him positively. In the context of the gym the colleague you will have a positive perception of that colleague but under other social circumstances the initial circumstances override any other encounter hence the negative impression continues.
Drinkard’s press release is based on empirical studies whereby people were put to task on various human characteristics to show how they create first impressions and the impacts of those impressions. One study was based on sexual orientations whereby over 100 people as participants were presented with copies of 20 men with identifications whereby some were straight and others gay. The photos were coded with real sexual orientations and tested several times with the participants to enhance their memorization. When given more time, the participants looked deeper into the lives of the men and what they learned to judge on their sexual orientation, but with less time, they considered their looks. Thus the study reveals how appearances trump facts; therefore, the importance to create the best first impression (Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP)).
In conclusion, it is important to prioritize the first impression because it will imply the person you are your entire life. The first impression should be likened the introductory paragraph of paper or first pages of a book because they give an idea of what the reader to expect. If these first texts are awful to the extent of putting off the reader, it may not be possible even to continue reading the paper or book (Biesanz, J. C. et al.). Psychology researchers who argue that first impressions can be changed may get it wrong especially when they argue that a person can show better personal traits to enable the other person to change the initial perception. This is because in some social contexts one may never get a second chance to show a better character to change an earlier judgment, for example, after failing an interview, it is impossible to get a chance to prove the interviewer wrong. Besides, plenty of research indicates that when one forms the first mental image of you, then it acts like a default picture that is not easy to change regardless of efforts to show a change in personal traits or behavior.
Biesanz, J. C. et al. “Do We Know When Our Impressions Of Others Are Valid? Evidence For Realistic Accuracy Awareness In First Impressions Of Personality”. Social Psychological And Personality Science, vol 2, no. 5, 2011, pp. 452-459. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/1948550610397211.
Naumann, L. P. et al. “Personality Judgments Based On Physical Appearance”. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, vol 35, no. 12, 2009, pp. 1661-1671. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/0146167209346309.
Rubinstein, Noah. “After First Impressions, Changing Perceptions Is Difficult”. Goodtherapy.Org Therapy Blog, 2011, http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/changing-perception-is-difficult-after-first-impression/.
Schafer, Jack. “Why Our Negative First Impressions Are So Powerful”. Psychology Today, 2014, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/let-their-words-do-the-talking/201412/why-our-negative-first-impressions-are-so-powerful.
Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP),. Even Fact Will Not Change First Impressions. 2014,.