First impressions really do last

First impressions“First impressions last”. How often have we heard that saying? Well, it’s not just something your parents say before your first job interview – it’s real. Research shows that our first impression of someone will linger, even if we are faced with contradictory information.

First impressions are formed incredibly quickly. Research shows that it takes only 39 milliseconds to make up your mind about somebody.

If the first time you meet someone, they are angry and frustrated, you will continue to see them as an impatient person, even if they were just having a really bad day when really they’re usually very calm, with a great sense of humour!

To study this phenomenon further, researchers showed study participants either positive or negative information about another person on a computer screen. Later, the participants were shown new information about the same person but this time the background colour on the screen was changed.

The results of the study showed that the new information about the person on the screen was only effective in changing the participant’s perception of them in the context that it was originally shown. Against all other backgrounds the participant’s reaction was dominated by the initial information.  To really break a first impression, that impression needs to be challenged in a number of different contexts or formats.

It seems then, that’s it’s up to all of us to give our fellow humans a second chance. Even though the whole process is very instinctive, you can mentally override it and choose to try and see them in a more positive light. You never know what you might discover about someone!

After all, we all have bad days right?