Suckered at first sight: How first impressions screw with your life

Suckered at first sight: How first impressions screw with your life

CultureApril 09, 2016 By Simon Berger

Whether you’re interviewing for a dream job or attempting to spice up your despondent Tinder profile, the first impression in today’s society holds a tremendous amount of power over the destiny of your cat-filled life. And of these first impressions, only 30 percent of the time they’re actually correct. Meaning, the other 70 percent of the time when you fall in love at first glance, you’re actually delusional. Yet still, it’s hard to escape the fate of the diabolical first impression, especially among the realm of social media and plethora of online profiles. Science understands you need all of the help you can get in this, and has narrowed down first impressions to four main characteristics: Approachability, Dominance, Attractiveness and Environment.

Approachability

The sad truth is that we’re all innately selfish. Get over it. First impressions aren’t any different. In our quest to protect our personal interests, we immediately question whether an approaching stranger will hinder or help those interests. A welcoming individual has good posture, engaging demeanor and a tantalizing smile that we can’t get enough of. To be approachable and increase your chances of success, ask questions, smile and be easily impressed, even if their jokes are B-league terrible.   

Dominance

Once we’ve determined that the imposing individual isn’t actually going to steal our caramel macchiato but is in fact helping to open the door, we next assess how capable this individual is of carrying out their intentions. We want someone who makes us feel safe and secure; competent and trustworthy. Masculine qualities in the facial structure like high eyebrows and a tan complexion project a sense of security, while body posture and outward appearance emanate control and assertiveness.

Attractiveness

After discovering that new individual in our lives is capable of helping us, our first impression then goes to the next big question: Are they a young and attractive potential partner, and can they help me spread my beautiful genes? Facial symmetry ranks as a great indicator of beauty, but in one psychological study, most people admitted that characteristics people could change like nice hair, good clothes, great posture and healthy weight were the most important features in making someone attractive. So finish “Making a Murderer,” turn the lights on and act like you’re a productive, vivacious member of society.

Environment

Like it or not, the first impression is often conditional, contextual and beyond the scope of anyone’s education level. Researchers have found that subtle body experiences affect not only your perceptions of others but also our preferences in others. Hold a cup of hot coffee and you’re likely to see the next person you meet as unusually warm. Sit at a wobbly table and you may judge your date as unstable. Meet someone in a dirty room and you’ll view them as morally impure.