The first impression of a person: what it is, what it can be, examples in psychology

Why we are greeted: How are the first impressions formed? 27 November 2021, 00:00 | Katya Kozhevnikova

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Dale Carnegie's birthday : the founder of communication theory wrote a lot of smart ideas about how to evoke sympathy in people. But all his advice may not work for one simple reason: the first impression of your interlocutor is not in your favor. Let's figure out what it is, how it is formed and whether it is possible to fight it.

Psychologists argue about how quickly we form a first impression, citing numbers from 0.1 to 7 seconds. For example, researchers from Princeton University conducted a study asking people to rate whether strangers in photographs were trustworthy. One group was shown the photographs for only 0.1 seconds, while the participants in the other group could look at the photographs for as long as they wanted. The two groups' scores were similar. It turns out that one tenth of a second is enough for people to draw a conclusion about a person’s character based on appearance.

But how true this opinion will be is a moot point. In another experiment, students were shown photographs of different people, from maniacs to professors, and asked to draw conclusions about their character. As the results showed, students were mostly wrong when they called maniacs kind and professors dangerous. Another experiment showed that when assessing character by appearance, people are captive of their aesthetic ideas: we often attribute positive qualities to beautiful people, and negative qualities to ugly people.

We judge a person more correctly when we see his facial expressions, rather than a static image of his face. The corresponding experiment was carried out back in 1992 at Harvard University. Participants were shown videotaped lectures by several teachers without sound. In one group these were 10-second videos, in another - 5-second, in the third - 2-second. Then they were asked to evaluate the lecturers on 15 parameters. The opinions of the experiment participants largely coincided. And, most surprisingly, it coincided with the grades of the students who studied with these teachers. It turns out that two seconds is enough for us to form a more or less correct opinion about a person.

But we must take into account that the first impression can be subject to a number of distortions. For example, people who are aware of some of their shortcomings tend to attribute similar negative traits to others. Stingy people consider everyone greedy, liars are always waiting for tricks and deception. Another distortion is the halo effect: positive expectations make us notice only the good in people, negative ones do the opposite. In addition, there is a boomerang effect: if a person tries to impose some impression on others, they begin to treat him in exactly the opposite way.

So, what do people look at when they form their first impression?


A smile is the easiest way to win over others. But not just any one. To do this, she must be natural and relaxed: few people like the tense (or even forced) smiles of registry office workers. A smile with compressed lips indicates that the person is hiding something. A crooked smile is considered sarcastic or even fake and does not inspire confidence among others.


It's no secret that closed and tense postures indicate a person's lack of self-confidence. And vice versa: a straight back and broad gestures show that a person is confident in his position and is ready to defend it. And this is not just an external impression. When a person tenses, his level of stress hormones increases, and when he takes wide, open poses, these levels decrease.


A lot of articles and books have been written about what gestures say about a person. But even people who have not read them interpret the movements of the interlocutor’s hands. For example, nervous movements of the hands near the mouth, neck and nose are subconsciously perceived as a signal of a person’s insincerity. Clenched fists and tense muscles clearly indicate his aggression.


A direct look into the eyes speaks of a person's confidence. And if the interlocutor avoids eye contact, it seems that he is hiding something. But that's not all: American psychologists have come to the conclusion that the ability to look into the eyes is considered a sign of intelligence. Although there is no need to take things to the point of absurdity: if you keep looking into your interlocutor’s eyes throughout the entire conversation, he will most likely begin to feel antipathy towards you.

But remember: any attempt to “play” a sincere smile or self-confidence will be felt by others. And then the boomerang effect will work - people will think that you are trying to impose a false idea of ​​yourself on them. Therefore, it is much better to evoke the appropriate emotions in yourself: remember a funny story before an important meeting or listen to a life-affirming song.

Do you believe that the first impression of a person is the most correct? Have you ever changed it?

By the way…

Wide-open eyes tell others about a person’s sincerity and even some naivety. You can achieve this visual effect with the help of makeup.

Chocolate Bar Eyeshadow palette with natural cocoa powder, Too FacedPrecious Rocks Eye Palette, DiorOnce Upon a Look Eyeshadow Palette, Sephora

Katya Kozhevnikova ,

Photo: Photobank Lori

What it is

This is a certain image, an emotional attitude that is formed at the moment when two people meet for the first time. The emotions received are remembered and emerge again with each further interaction, which is why they have an impact.

The most important thing is that it only takes a few seconds to form the sensation, and within two minutes it will finally take hold. Several determining factors are important:

  • The body of the interlocutor, namely his posture, facial expressions, gestures.
  • Voice along with timbre and intonation.
  • Spoken words.
  • Personal characteristics are also important, but it is almost impossible to discern them in such a short time.

Is the person successful?

To create a good opinion of yourself in the eyes of others, you need clothes. People who wear a business suit are perceived by others as more successful and attractive than people in jeans and jumpers. The first impression is deceiving. This applies to men and women.

To create the image of a successful lady, women need to wear closed clothes. A deep neckline and a mini skirt create a feeling of lower social status.

Another interesting observation was made by teachers at the University of Pennsylvania. Bald men are perceived as leaders who know how to lead a group of people. Age and clothing were secondary in the experiment.

The first opinion about a person can be wrong, but it has a great influence on future relationships. The opinion formed in the first seconds is difficult to change later.

What does one impression of a person consist of?

The most important in this process are:

  • Appearance. The greatest attention is paid to clothing, hairstyle, condition of shoes, cleanliness of the body, hands and nails. The neater a new acquaintance looks, the more positive qualities are attributed to him.
  • Behavior. Everyone likes to communicate with confident people, but no one likes self-confident individuals. Finding that very fine line between inner strength and selfishness is difficult.
  • Communication style. It is directly related to the previous factor. By our actions we show the level of good manners, restraint, and therefore goodwill towards others.
  • Emotional condition. The more smiling a person is, the more pleasant he is to others. We are not talking about laughing for no reason when meeting, but showing your friendliness with a light smile is a must.
  • Posture. Correct posture and a straight back also signal inner confidence and self-esteem.

How to make a good first impression

Whenever you meet someone, it is extremely important to make a good impression on your interlocutor, because, as you know, it is very difficult to change. Success in your personal life and professional activities depends on this. In this article we will look at several rules that will help you get in touch with a new person and leave a good impression.

There is a so-called first impression effect. This is an opinion about a person that the subject formed in the first minutes of the meeting and influences the further assessment of his activities and personality. When you are in a company unfamiliar to you, you involuntarily pay attention to someone who confidently holds and speaks, who controls his emotions and body. This behavior evokes respect and a desire to engage in conversation with him.

The first impression depends on the following factors:

  • The ability to control the body - gestures, gaze, gait, posture, facial expressions.
  • Voice and intonation - timbre, confidence in the voice or excitement.
  • The meaning of spoken words. This factor matters not in the first minutes of acquaintance, but after some time.

There are several rules that must be followed.


Don't try to make a good impression

Yes exactly. Things don't go as planned when you're trying to make a good impression. You won't be able to relax because instead of maintaining a pleasant conversation, you'll be thinking about how not to lose face. You will stop paying attention to your interlocutor if you are absorbed in yourself, your reactions, facial expressions, gestures and behavior.


Be yourself

Perhaps the most significant impression of another person is something like “He was himself.” Of course, this does not negate the fact that you need to learn communication skills and techniques and develop in order to become even better.

Hypocrisy is noticed by people instantly, even if they cannot explain it in words. The interlocutor will feel awkward if your words are at odds with your demeanor or if your sad mood is combined with a forced smile. In the latter case, you need to learn to cheer yourself up.

Not every event you are invited to is worth going to if you feel uncomfortable there. Being present in order to please people is not entirely correct, because hypocrisy is inherent in this very action. Go to events that you enjoy, because there you can be yourself.


Learn to enjoy communication

Everything can go wrong if you don't like people and communicating with them. What to do? Study psychology, learn to find internal motivation, because first of all you need it. As already mentioned, people sense falsehood and hypocrisy, so you need to learn not to fake emotions, but to actually experience them. Be friendlier, more smiling, more cheerful.

Social media has created a lot of introverts, to fix this, work on yourself. After some time, you will realize that you enjoy the process of communication and understanding people. Learn to listen and tell interesting stories.

If you truly enjoy communication, everything will work out on its own. You will no longer need to artificially try to make a good impression; it will be formed without your participation. However, this requires a lot of work on yourself.


See yourself through other people's eyes

This does not mean that you should be able to show good sides that are not really there. You just need to make sure that the person perceives you as real. Many can probably remember a situation when they did not mean at all what was perceived. Our words and facial expressions in these seconds may not be combined, so the interlocutor may misunderstand you.

Think about what kind of person other people see you as. If you consider yourself cheerful, but others do not, then how can you make them see you as the life of the party and a positive person? How to bring internal and external factors into harmony? How to learn to dress in such a way that it fully corresponds to your opinion about yourself? When you answer all these questions, you will begin to understand how you look in the eyes of other people and there will no longer be a situation in which you are misunderstood and misjudged.


Think about why people should communicate with you

This is also quite natural. People value those who are interesting to them. And if, when you meet someone, you don’t even understand how to win over and how to attract a person, difficulties begin. Thinking about what you can give to other people does not make you a hypocrite. This allows you to at least sometimes stop being selfish and not demand good treatment from scratch.

People appreciate unobtrusiveness, friendly disposition, and a sense of humor. They do not like to argue (although they do argue), and they cannot stand criticism that hurts their pride. These moments are only intensified when it comes to dating. Therefore, thinking about the comfort of your interlocutor is a completely normal process and this is what it means to be able to communicate with people. Don’t wait for the moment when your interlocutor himself offers you an interesting topic - offer it yourself.

What ways do you know to make a good first impression? Share it with us in the comments.

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Key words:1Profiling

How is it formed

It only takes a few minutes, usually no more than 2-4, to form a special opinion about a stranger. The main role here is played by such a cognitive process as perception. This means that we look at a stranger, perceive his appearance as something whole, and then transmit the received information to the brain, where it is processed.

First of all, we are not talking about the words spoken by the interlocutor, but about behavioral factors. We remember no more than 20% of everything that is said during a conversation, but no less than 70% of everything we see. This happens due to the way the brain works, which is easier to recognize and process visual information than auditory information.

Psychologist Daria Milai

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The first impression effect is visible on EEG and fMRI

as stimulation of areas of the brain responsible for aggression, care and sexual behavior. In the future, with continued communication, especially short-term, most people tend to confirm their first “biological” impression with internal dialogue with themselves and rationalization.

These principles work almost flawlessly in short-term communication, which takes no more than 10-20 minutes; in long-term communication, the importance of these factors decreases, but remains.

The first impression – is it the most correct one: why can it be deceptive?

Misconceptions often happen, especially if a new acquaintance has done his best to prepare for the meeting. There are 3 main groups of inaccuracies:

  • Attitude. It may be wrong for a fairly simple reason. Each of us considers ourselves significant, respected, and at some points delightful, and subconsciously we also treat everyone around us when we first meet. Naturally, it is very easy to overestimate the personal qualities of the interlocutor. The disappointment will be very unpleasant.
  • Attractive appearance. Attractive people are perceived as warm, friendly, helpful, and intelligent. The subconscious mind cannot work any other way. To avoid mistakes, it is enough to continue communication, and pretty soon the true state of affairs will become clear.
  • Dominance over the interlocutor. When evaluating clothes, accessories and other external attributes, we can attribute him to our social class or place him higher/lower than ourselves. In fact, many successful people avoid spending money on expensive brands, while the less wealthy take out loans to buy a phone, clothes, or a car that they cannot afford.

None of us are immune from mistakes. It will be possible to find out later what the first impression of a person may be - right or wrong, sometimes it takes a lot of time. Therefore, do not try to immediately cut off ties if the stranger turns out to be categorically unlikable to you - give him a second chance.

Intelligence and promiscuity

The ability to look your interlocutor in the eyes speaks of a person with high intelligence. This is how others perceive us. If at the first meeting a person averts his eyes, then, most likely, an opinion will be formed about him as a person with a narrow mind.

The first impression is deceiving. For example, glasses with discreet frames will create the impression that this is an educated person. Although wearing glasses has nothing to do with IQ level.

To create the impression of an educated person, you need to look your interlocutor in the eyes when speaking.

Scientists in England conducted an experiment among men. They were given photographs that showed women with tattoos on various parts of their bodies and no designs on their bodies. The assessment was carried out according to three parameters:

  • alcohol consumption;
  • attractiveness;
  • moral qualities.

Based on the test, scientists concluded that women who have tattoos on open parts of the body are perceived by men as lovers of alcoholic beverages and leading an immoral life.

Effects of perception

There are such unique features that form the first opinion as:

  • Boomerang - we strive to resist the pressure of another if we feel it. It is because of this that disputes often arise that spoil the entire image of the interlocutor.
  • The primacy effect concerns new information about an acquaintance; we strive to find out the latest news, even if it radically diverges from the general opinion.
  • Stereotyping arises if, even before we met, we heard about a person from his other acquaintances.

There are other features, such as projection or labeling. They must be dealt with in any case.

The influence of aromas

A person smells another person, perfume, the aroma of skin. The impression can be created based on smells and evoke associations. If they are pleasant, then the person will like you at the first meeting. This happens unconsciously. People who have a similar skin odor are more likely to hit it off when they first meet.

The first impression can be deceptive; subsequent communication may reveal that the person is rude, arrogant, and it is difficult to continue communicating with him. The first impression is created due to the qualities that the stranger is ready to show to others.

Important words of advice

Finally, a few more tips on how to make a good impression:

  1. Watch your posture, don't frown, don't get distracted. This rule applies even when you are talking with an old friend.
  2. Also watch your speech. It should not contain slang, rude or ambiguous words.
  3. Don't talk too much, otherwise your interlocutor will get bored.
  4. Don't forget about hygiene. It's about freshness of breath and cleanliness of the body. A conversation will not be productive if there is an unpleasant odor from sweat or breath.
  5. If you're on a date, don't talk about your ex-partner. This will show that you still think about him.

If at any point you realize that the person is unpleasant to you, end the conversation and leave. Don't force yourself to continue communicating. And you will experience discomfort, and the person will understand the insincerity.


With constant communication, the impressions that were formed in the first minutes of acquaintance continue to influence. However, a close and lasting partnership cannot be based only on a superficial list of judgments. Gradually the relationship reaches a deeper level. The opinion is adjusted and becomes less susceptible to one-time situations.

By understanding the system by which impressions are formed, you can influence other people and regulate their perception.

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