Psychologists call it “thin slicing.”
Within moments of meeting you, people decide all sorts of things about you, from status to intelligence to conscientiousness.
Career experts say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.
Fortunately, you have some control over the way others see you. For example, wearing tailored clothes and looking your conversation partner in the eye will generally create a more positive impression. But as for how aggressive you seem? That’s largely determined by your facial structure.
Here, we’ve rounded up 12 assumptions people make about you — sometimes accurate and sometimes less so — based on first impressions. Read on to find out what signals you might be giving off.
A small Dutch study found that people wearing name-brand clothes -- Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger, to be precise -- were seen as higher status and wealthier than folks wearing non-designer clothes when they approached 80 shoppers in a mall.
'Perceptions did not differ on any of the other dimensions that might affect the outcome of social interactions,' the authors wrote. 'There were no differences in perceived attractiveness, kindness, and trustworthiness.'
Just status and wealth.
A small 2008 study of male and female undergrads given photos of 90 men's faces (half of the men were straight and half were gay) found that on average, the participants accurately judged the photographed man's sexual orientation in a twentieth of a second about 57% of the time -- 7% better than pure chance.
'The rapid and accurate perception of male sexual orientation may be just another symptom of a fast and efficient cognitive mechanism for perceiving the characteristics of others,' wrote study authors Nicholas O. Rule and Nalini Ambady.
Bald isn't just beautiful; it's powerful.
In a small University of Pennsylvania experiment, undergrads looked at 25 photos of men, some with shaved heads and others with full heads of hair. The students rated men with shaved heads as more dominant.
Two larger follow-up experiments with 344 and 552 adults, respectively, had similar results: participants tended to rate bald men (those who'd had their hair either digitally removed or those with shaved heads) as more dominant.
Importantly, researchers found that it was specifically shaved heads that people seemed to associate with dominance -- not just the lack of hair. So if it's starting to go, you might want to shave it.
If you want to look successful, get your clothes tailored.
A British-Turkish study of 274 people had them look at faceless photos of men in tailored versus off-the-peg suits for five seconds. They tended to rate the guys in tailored suits as more successful.
'On the evidence of this study it appears men may be advised to purchase clothing that is well‐tailored, as it can positively enhance the image they communicate to others,' the authors wrote.
It's not just status -- it's earning potential, too.
In a small 2011 study of college students who were shown photos of a male model dressed in either business or casual attire and then asked questions about how he'd perform in a variety of jobs, the participants tended to predict that the crisply dressed men would make more money and get promoted sooner.
Sometimes, first impressions can be totally wrong -- other times they can be right on point.
A small Canadian experiment of undergraduate women found they were able to accurately assess how aggressive 37 different men were after looking at a photograph of their face for 39 milliseconds. (The researchers measured aggression by having the men pictured play a computer game in which they had the option to steal points from another player.)
Researchers also found a connection between men with larger facial width-to-height ratios (regardless of their expressions) and percieved aggression levels, and reasoned that it could be because angry expressions involve lowering the brow and raising the upper lip, which increases this ratio.
People may be able to tell how religious you are simply by looking at how you hold yourself.
One study, led by Laura P. Naumann at the University of California, Berkeley, found that 123 undergrads could acccurately assess 113 people's religiosity simply by looking at full-body photographs of those individuals. In this case, religiosity was measured by asking the individuals pictured as well as three people who knew them well to complete a questionnaire.
Those who appeared to be smiling, energetic, relaxed, and neat were judged to be more religious -- and in fact, they usually were.
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