Yes, first impressions do count. Science has come up with what people decide within seconds—or milliseconds—of meeting you. And you don’t even have to open your mouth.
Journalist Rachel Premack has detailed 11 things in her Business Insider article “Science says people decide these 11 things within seconds of meeting you.”
They decide your:
- Social status: Wear recognizably name-brand clothes. (A Dutch study mentions Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger) In this case, clothes don’t necessarily make the man—or woman. According to the authors of the study, wearing status clothes didn’t affect perceptions of attractiveness, kindness, and trustworthiness.
- Trustworthiness: People make this assessment in a tenth of a second. Taking more time doesn’t change the rating. Ms. Premack notes folks with “more feminine, baby-like, and happy” faces are seen as more trustworthy. So, if you look like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, you need to compensate by smiling more, leaning into a conversation, making strong eye contact, and mirroring the other person’s body language.
- Intelligence: Looking your conversation partner in the eye is huge. It also helps if you wear thick glasses (thick, blocky-looking frames are a plus here). and speak expressively.
- Promiscuity: A Britain study revealed that women with visible tattoos are seen as less attractive, heavier drinkers, and looser sexually than un-inked women. This study didn’t look at men in roughly the same category, known in Britain as “lads.” I, for one, would be interested to see how male promiscuity is evaluated.
- Success: “If you want to look successful, get your suit tailored.” In one study, it took viewers only five seconds to rate men wearing tailored suits as successful. Not a big surprise, because tailored suits cost bucks, which successful people have. Perception of tailoring is a matter of taste, I guess. I absolutely hate the suits younger guys are wearing with their tight, high-waisted, single-button jackets and oddly shaped, short, ill-fitting trousers.
Ms. Premack notes, “A lot of first impressions come from things we can’t control at all — our natural scent, how “baby-like” our faces are, and whether or not we need to wear glasses or are bald.”
Agreed. Yet, as pointed out earlier, our smiles are important, as is our ability to make eye contact. To this I add standing up straight, stashing your cell phone, and having a real conversation with someone.