As you take the dog out for a walk, you come across your new neighbor walking his dog. He is attractive, smart and single. You stop for a brief chat.
Unfortunately, it’s not your lucky day. You have just been laid off from work and haven’t had a shower for almost two days, your hair looks like you just got out of bed, and you smell like old garlic.
“I don’t normally look this way … or smell this way”, you say without thinking.
“What?”, Hottie says, “Oh… that’s OK”
“No really, I just didn’t shower because I got laid off from work, and …. well, it’s not like I don’t have a job … I mean, I don’t…. but it wasn’t my fault that I got fired … laid off, I mean… I am going to get a job real soon anyway.”
OK, admit it. Not a good first impression. There is no need to call attention to all the negative things you can think of about yourself the first time you meet a new person.
But no big deal, you can make up for it later, right?
WRONG! First impressions last.
A team of researchers from Belgium, Canada and the United States recently found that first impressions outlast new impressions and updated information.
Suppose you meet your new neighbor at a party the following Saturday. You look great, and you have even found a new job.
Is he going to think you are great? Well, he might. But only in the context of the party. In other contexts, it’s that first impression that counts, the research team reports.
To change his opinion about you, you will have to encounter him in many different contexts, not just one or two, and you will have to make a good impression on him in every single one. No easy task.
The good news is that if you make a first good impression, then that too will stick. You can mess up pretty badly and still be seen in a good light because of your great first impression!
Source: Bertram Gawronski, Robert J. Rydell, Bram Vervliet, Jan De Houwer. Generalization versus contextualization in automatic evaluation.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2010; 139.
Dr. Berit Brogaard ("Dr. Brit") has written since 1999 for publications such as "Journal of Philosophy,", "Journal of Biological Chemistry," "Consciousness and Cognition," "Cognitive Science," and "Journal of Medicine and Philosophy". In her academic research, she specializes in rare brain conditions such as synesthesia and blindsight, brain intervention and emotional regulation. From 2007 to 2009 she was a research fellow at the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University. She has D.M.Sci. in neuroscience from the Danish National Hospital and the University of Copenhagen and a Ph.D. in philosophy from State University of New York at Buffalo.