The first meeting of two people makes up the most importance in their relationship. On the first encounter between two or more people, each undoubtedly asks unconsciously whether the other person will be fit for them in terms of the objective of their meeting. First impressions are an evolutionary trait of humans to adapt adequately and participate in society interactions.
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Additionally, first impressions depend on the observer and the person observed. Most empirical research on first impression shows that persons are most attracted to other persons who show a tendency to accept them, as they would like to. This paper describes how first impressions are made and why they are important to the functioning of any society.
We make first impressions as a preliminary mode of adaptation to the other person and therefore the impressions made are in no way definitive. As we get to interact more with the other person, our preliminary impressions undergo a modification. However, this does not imply that we completely overhaul our initial impression of the other person; instead, our initial impressions make the basis of our further scrutiny and refinement of subsequent impressions.
An experiment by the American psychologist, Solomon Asch demonstrates the above point in practice. In the experiment, the psychologist drafted six qualities of an individual and then gave the qualities to two groups of students and asked them to describe the individual in their own words. Each group received a different order of the same six qualities of the individual.
The first group received the six qualities in the order of the most positive to the least positive while the second group received an opposite arrangement, from the least positive quality to the most positive quality.
The experiment’s result showed that the first group interpreted the negative qualities of the individual in the view of the individual’s positive qualities thus indicating that the group had formed a positive preliminary perception of the individual. Contrariwise the second group viewed the individual positive qualities as minor qualities of the individual’s overall negative personality.
This result indicates that the second group relied on the sequence of delivery of qualities to form their initial perception. From the results of the experiment, it is clear that an individual form the preliminary perception of another person based on what attribute of the other person shows up first.
The degree of accuracy of first impressions depends significantly on the observer and the observed person. First impressions determine how we handle the next step of getting to know the other person as the example of psychologist Solomon Asch has demonstrated. The experiment only highlights first impressions in a controlled environment, however, the reality governing first impressions is much complex.
Humans use first impressions as an evolutionary instinct of survival. According to psychology, it only takes three seconds for a person to form a first impression of another person. The brief exposure to the other person’s behavior and characteristics is enough for individuals to form an opinion whether further interaction with the other person will be of any benefit. As an evolutionary trait, the interpretation of the brief exposure to the other person’s behavior serves as a shield in interpersonal relationships in an unknown societal setting.
In medieval times, people used first impressions to gauge the other person or group’s chances of inflicting harm or being beneficial. In the modern world, survival is different. Survival is in terms of meeting our goals, fulfilling our desires, finishing tasks, accurately predicting the future and avoiding danger whether physical or psychological.
Although the perceiver may honestly create a first impression, the perceived individual may only be pretending. A person’s way of interpreting the brief exposure of behavior during first encounters with other persons determines how they proceed in their relation to the stranger.
On the other hand, individuals expect others to form a first impression of their behaviors and therefore go to great lengths in ensuring that only what they desire to demonstrate is actually captured by their perceiver. Therefore, individuals do not rely on first impressions only in their formation of an opinion of a stranger’s character.
Similarity of the encounter with previous encounters significantly affects how an individual will perceive another. Secondly, the similarities of the stranger’s observable characteristics with those characteristics that the perceiver is examining also contribute to the final perception. Due to this fact, individuals tend to look for what is common between them and use their value of the common factor to perceive the other person.
So if the stranger’s only similarity is a depiction of a characteristic that is very mild in the perceiver’s awareness, then the overall judgment formed is skeptical and subject to further scrutiny. However when the opposite is the case, an individual forms a favorable perception of the stranger and further scrutiny happens to support the already formed perception. This attribute of first impressions is in tandem with the findings of psychologist Solomon Asch as explained earlier in this paper.
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Despite the high probability of individuals in getting their first impressions wrong, society goes to great lengths to develop mechanisms intended for creating first impressions. In work relations and careers, resumes and interviews exist to help employers to perceive their potential employees. However, the same avenues also allow potential employees to falsify their actual behavior and competency to create a similarity with that of the potential employer.
In the medical field, physicians and nurses rely on the initial description of a condition by their patients as well as the observable traits of their patients to deduce the kind of medication and care appropriate for the patient. In interpersonal relationships, persons use the setting of their first encounter, their stereotypic view of the behavior demonstrated by the stranger and their intention for meeting to form a perception.
The formation of first impressions is fundamental to people’s social perception and social cognition. The individual’s evolution of understanding others in a setting that lacks a constant social hierarchy is heavily dependent on this attribute. As a result, the creation of first impressions is a dynamic process that constantly incorporates previously learnt and experienced aspects of perceiving other people’s suitability for association.
As the society becomes more aware of the importance of first impressions, some individuals strive to ensure that their behaviors, as depicted to others, are a reflection of who they want to be instead of their actual self. On the other hand, new forms appear together with the refinement of stereotypes to ensure that first impressions are accurate. The result is a constant formulation of new strategies and mechanisms of creating first impressions to reduce the tendency of making inaccurate perceptions.