Imagine Health

The Psychology of First Impressions

First impressions are important, you only make one of them! As humans, we make judgements on other people quickly. A study from Princeton University has found that people make judgements on attractiveness, likability and trustworthiness within a fraction of a second after seeing someone.

Even if presented with lots of opposing evidence, we tend to rely on our own initial impressions of people. Making these instant judgements is engrained in our need to determine whether a stranger is a threat or not. These judgements may or may not be accurate but we just can’t stop ourselves from making them.

General Factors affecting first impressions

Sensory factors such as how a person looks, sounds and smells initiates much of the impressions we make when we meet someone new. Body language during initially meeting someone is more important than the words communicated.

People whether consciously or unconsciously aware of it, generally prefer others who are similar in looks, personality, attitude, belief and behaviour to themselves. We also tend to look for familiarity in others. If we see someone for the first time that looks like a person we know who is arrogant, we then may judge this person as being arrogant. People tend to associate the emotions they felt in your presence with your personality. This means that if you made someone feel uneasy during your first meeting they might form a bad first impression.

Symmetry of the face is also a factor in the formation of first impressions. Research has shown that if we see a face that is in proportion we may view this person as intelligent, kind and trustworthy. Facial expressions also play a part in our judgement of others. Smiling faces are evaluated more positively on a range of different attributes, including approachability, trustworthiness, and attractiveness.

Therefore, when making an impression, it is important to make a positive one. Although an individual’s judgement of you can change it takes time and sometimes shifting someone’s initial opinion is extremely hard.

So how can you make a good first impression?

  1. Be on time
  2. Dress neatly and appropriately
  3. Watch your body language- maintain a good posture and make appropriate eye contact
  4. Be enthusiastic and friendly and remember the importance of a smile
  5. Be confident


Written by Rebekka Johnston