First Impressions: It Only Takes A Glance


We all live in a world that appears to run smoothly and seamlessly. When we throw a ball, it seems to flow through the air and fall to the ground in one fluent motion. The truth of the matter is that we have developed a set of filters that allow us to see the world as this smoothly flowing reality. Here is a scientific fact: the human brain can only truly focus and concentrate on one thing at a time. The reason it seems as though multitasking is possible is that the human attention can be refocused several times a second. At the most, it can switch attention up to 10 times per second.

For the sake of argument, let us allow an individual to have the ability to switch their attention 3 times per second. This is less than half of the true capacity but even with this seemingly low processing power, in 3 seconds this person has already observed 9 things about whoever they meet. Running through an example will illustrate the true power of this statement.

Let’s say that Bob is the person who can switch his attention 3 times per second and he is in the process of meeting Andy. Bob greets Andy with a “Hello, my name is Bob” and reaches out to give a handshake. Andy reaches out and says “My name is Andy” and reaches out to meet Bob’s handshake. Already Bob could have possibly noticed these things in just 3 seconds:

  1. Andy’s hair style
  2. Andy’s Vocal Quality
  3. The Shirt Andy is wearing
  4. The Pants Andy Is wearing
  5. The shoes Andy is wearing
  6. Andy’s Height
  7. Andy’s Body Composition
  8. Andy’s Facial Expression
  9. Andy’s accessories (watch, earrings etc.)

This is in just three seconds. The processing power of our brains is more than we can even fathom and making appraisals of others is a skill we learn as children. By the time we are adults in the real world, this process has been refined and repeated until it is second nature. Many people make these judgments and do not even realize it is happening. Whether it is right or not, people are judging others on a daily basis throughout their entire day.

If this argument is not enough to convince you, consider this. We have been evolving for thousands of years as a human race. In the early days when there was not a society providing easily accessible necessities and an audible language for people to communicate, staying safe was a matter of judging danger and staying away from it. It was simply natural selection taking its course. When early humans made poor judgments, predators or other humans took their life and they were not able to reproduce. This action of appraising and judging others has been with us and evolved over thousands of years. Just because society helps provide for our needs now does not mean that deeply engrained behavior will just disappear.

Keep in mind that these 3 seconds when first meeting create a lasting impression. If Bob met Andy and Andy had on old ragged clothing, a cigarette hanging from his mouth and un-kept hygiene, the 3 seconds of scanning would accumulate to an unfavorable first impression of Andy. However, if Andy was wearing a suit, had well-kept hygiene and complimented Bob for his stunning watch, Bob would form a favorable opinion in those 3 seconds. A first impression is a lasting impression.

It is fair to say that though even unfair, people constantly judge other people whether it is on a small-scale or large-scale. Some findings in first impressions often lead to rationalizations that can be untrue about the person. An example of this is if Bob saw Andy in a nice suit, he may assume that Andy has a job and is financially stable. It could be however that Andy has so much debt that his house is about to be foreclosed on and his life is in shambles. For some strange reason, people seem to think that their assumptions are correct a lot of the time but we all know what happens when we assume. 

The point of understanding this concept is that it is beneficial to make a good first impression when you get the chance. People in charge of hiring you and even rich, powerful people engage in the behavior of judging and assigning value to people. You never know who you will meet at what times but it only takes one person to change the entire course of your life. Accommodate others with a good first impression every time and the accumulated benefits may lead you to a spot that you did not believe was in reach. Create a positive first impression so that others do not write you off and miss out on becoming receptive who you really are as a person. 

“We Are The Young Life Perception”

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