#FirstImpressions … Can You #Trust Them?


“How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love?” – Albert Einstein

(The following excerpt taken from The Once-Over by Carlin Flora recently appeared on psychology today.com on March 18, 2013. To view it in its entirety please click on the link below.)

Bill and Hillary Clinton often tell the story of how they met: They locked eyes across Yale’s law library, until Hillary broke the silent flirtation and marched straight over to Bill. “Look, if you’re going to keep staring at me, and I’m going to keep staring back, we might as well be introduced. I’m Hillary Rodham. What’s your name?” Bill has said he couldn’t remember his own name. It was quite a first impression, one so powerful that it sparked a few chapters of U.S. history.

Initial encounters are emotionally concentrated events that can overwhelm us—even convince us that the room is spinning. We walk away from them with a first impression that is like a Polaroid picture—a head-to-toe image that develops instantly and never entirely fades. Often, that snapshot captures important elements of the truth.

Consider one study in which untrained subjects were shown 20- to 32-second videotaped segments of job applicants greeting interviewers. The subjects then rated the applicants on attributes such as self-assurance and likability. Surprisingly, their assessments were very close to those of trained interviewers who spent at least 20 minutes with each applicant. What semblance of a person—one with a distinct appearance, history and complex personality—could have been captured in such a fleeting moment?

 The answer lies in part in how the brain takes first-impression Polaroids—creating a composite of all the signals given off by a new experience. Psychologists agree that snap judgments are a holistic phenomenon in which clues (mellifluous voice, Rolex watch, soggy handshake, hunched shoulders) hit us all at once and form an impression larger than their sum.



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