The Millisecond of a Lifetime

2 Dec

We are told time and time again that first impressions are lasting, but how influential are they in reality? According to a new study from researchers in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University, first impressions truly last a lifetime.

The researchers showed participants images of faces for 100 milliseconds, then 500 milliseconds, then 1 second and longer periods. The impressions made after each micro-exposure for all traits judged, which were attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, and aggressiveness, stayed consistent throughout. Interestingly, participants were able to predict the winners of congressional elections at a 70% rate after just 100 milliseconds, proving that individuals can correctly judge human traits in less than a second. Specific decisions are commonly influenced by facial characteristics, with competence most highly correlated with public office.

So does this mean that we cannot change how others initially view us? In fact, it’s quite the contrary. While facial features do play a role, body language, as well as how you present yourself (clothing, jewelry, shoes etc.) factor into first impressions. With this in mind, remember to dress well, stay upbeat and stay aware of your body language (no slouching!) when you need to make a good first impression. Ultimately, making the right first impression generally requires little more than remembering to do so, and let your personality take care of the rest.

Works Cited:

by Karl Bach


2 Responses to “The Millisecond of a Lifetime”

  1. Gregory Porter December 4, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

    Karl, great post. The importance of first impressions cannot be understated. Even if one gives a great interview, making a bad first impression through what one wears or what time one arrives can be a turn off for employers. As you state, some of the way people judge us is by our face; however, for things one can control, like what one wears or when one arrives, it is important to do all one can to appear professional, etc. Lastly, the importance of first impressions extends from job interviews to dating and comes up everyday in one’s life.


  2. Elisabeth Green December 12, 2011 at 6:55 pm #

    What really stuck out at me in your post was the fact that people make assumptions or judgements about people just after seeing them for a second. This point reminded me of the infamous Saint Louis question: what high school did you go to? Although it may not appear as a judgmental question, people perceive you a certain way based upon your answer. If you went to private school or a public school in one of the nicer neighborhoods, people assume you are wealthier, and if you went to a religious school, they will automatically know what religion you practice. Although we may not realize it, first impressions are very important, and people will make assumptions about our traits the second we meet them!

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