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First Impressions Remain Dominant in Humans: How Blind Dates Go Sour

First Posted: Feb 18, 2014 01:43 PM EST
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Have you ever been on a first date that went so terribly wrong you vowed to never see that person again? You may not be alone. It turns out that people tend to cling to first impressions and have a tough time getting over them. 

The psychological definition of a first impression is the "term applied to the initial impression we have of another person when we meet them for the first time. It contains positive and negative impressions and a sense of physical and psychological features," as per Psychology Dictionary. A study conducted by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology revealed that people generally do not get over the first thing they know about someone.

In the experiment, Vivian Zayas of Cornell University and her colleagues asked participants to look at a photograph of a person and make a judgment about how they would feel if they interacted with that person. The participants followed up over a month later and actually met with the person they previously viewed in the photograph.

The results showed that the participants' description and prediction of whether or not they would like the person in the photograph were very accurate. Another aspect of the experiment had the participants guess if a person was trustworthy or untrustworthy based on viewing a headshot. The findings suggested that people remember untrustworthy faces and behavior rather than the better people and better qualities.

Wired.com interviewed Social psychologist Amy Cuddy about the topic of first impressions. She spoke of her findings on first impressions, which are very relevant to the previous experiment detailed by this LiveScience article.

"When we form a first impression of another person it's not really a single impression," Cuddy said in this Wired.com article. "We're really forming two. We're judging how warm and trustworthy the person is, and that's trying to answer the question, 'What are this person's intentions toward me?' And we're also asking ourselves, 'How strong and competent is this person?'"

Perhaps humans have figured out a way to cut corners when trying to keep an open mind. Their first-impression assessments appear to not only be accurate, but they also focus on meaningful characteristics of the individual.

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