Monday, September 27, 2004

Are first impressions over-rated?

Are first impression meant to be last impressions or simply, lasting impressions (long or short)? I guess a behavioral psychiatrist would comment on it better, but I wonder what it means to a layman. We all meet new people day-in day-out (unless you are in solitary confinement, or aboard the international space station) and often times, the meetings are for very small periods of time. This is especially true in interviews that I have started conducting off late. I realized that to make an objective assessment of the interviewee without letting a subjective personality analysis is tough. Of course, the more I interview, the better it gets, but I wonder where the improvement will end. Aren't factors like body language, confidence, eye contact, enthusiasm etc. items of subjective assessment? However, can you completely overlook all of these factors and focus only on the answers the interviewee gives?

That was of course an experience at work. What about personal life? I have sometimes formed an opinion about a person, changed it over a course of time, and changed it again (sounds like John Kerry on Iraq? :-)) It makes me wonder about the value of the first impression. Certainly, it is not the last impression you will have of the person. In fact, I don't think it will even be a long-lasting one. If you meet people with an infrequent regularity, chances are you keep creating first impressions repeatedly.

Third example. Dates. It is the ultimate impressionating or impersonating game. The objective is to present your best foot forward and at the same time conduct an evaluation of the subject opposite you. You are a patient and a shrink at the same time :-)

Treat this as an experiment. If this is your first visit to the blog, form an impression and see if it actually sustains over a period of time or changes.


RTD2 said...

First off, what is a behavioral psychiatrist?!
Second off, some research findings..
1. Many interviewers make their decision within the first four minutes of the interview (Don't know if I buy that!)
2. Eye contact, posture, tone of voice etc. (body language in general) contributes about 80% to our impression of someone
3. That impression need not necessarily be invalid - "non-verbal leakage", or when you say something but your body says something else leads people to believe body language (which is harder to disguise) than talk.
4. Researchers are finding more and more that intuition need not necessarily be subjective or unreliable. Perhaps the "gut feeling" we sometimes have is a conclusion our integrative mind comes to after quick consideration of factors outside our awareness. Translation? Don't mistrust your intuition, don't rely on it either. ESPECIALLY avoid stereotype-based judgments like women can't do math, Asians are smart or Black people have rhythm!
Bottom line, first impressions can be quite lasting. Pay attention to non-verbal behavior, signs as well as what the person is saying. Don't be afraid to change your opinion. Like last year, I had 2 students who dressed in black leather and chains, with tattoos and piercings - the whole goth scene. I thought to myself, oh no, two punks I might have to deal with. No points for guessing who got the top grades in class and who went on to make the Dean's list and was an Honors student?!!Made me feel like an ass!

Los said...

Hi Parth,

Everyones first impressions change over time. Just like our memories. It's part of life. Learning from ones mistakes. If I make a mistake I sure as hell am not going to stick to that mistake because I made a choice and am going to stick to it come hell or high water. That is a real bad way of making sure you end up in the worst possible situation.
As far as interviews go... ugg, I think the last one I had I wore a tie... me... a tie. Of course I got the job but whatever. I don't do ties anymore... well not to often anyway. But since getting into the wedding photography racket I will probably be wearing more...
And the dating thing. Whew, I can really blow that out of the water fast. I suck at dating. They are worse than interviews. It's a sexual interview really... You look at the other person and think "could I have sex with him/her?"

Anyway, type at ya later...