An Accurate First Impression Is a Good First Impression
What’s the best way to make a good first impression? The question has dogged college freshmen and Project Runway contestants for ages, but some new research suggests the answer may lie in that old parental advice, “Be yourself.”
The study examined how the accuracy of first impressions influences the development of long-term relationships. Impression accuracy was quantified by measuring “distinctive self-other agreement” — i.e. the degree to which the way that a person is viewed matches their own self-description. The researchers found that over time an accurate first impression promotes more social interaction and better relationships.
Assessing accuracy as distinctive self-other agreement, we found that more accurate personality impressions of new classmates were marginally associated with greater liking concurrently, and significantly predicted greater interaction throughout the semester and greater liking and interest in future interactions by the end of the semester. Importantly, greater distinctive self-other agreement continued to promote social interaction even after controlling for Time 1 liking, suggesting that these positive effects of accuracy operate independently of initial liking…In sum, independent of the benefits of biased impressions, forming accurate impressions has a positive impact on relationship development among new acquaintances.
Why does this happen? The researchers speculate that accurate impressions help promote familiarity and comfort, and that they can make a person more likable by creating the sense that the person is easy to understand.
Though the study deals with specific circumstances involving the reciprocal relationship between two people, the mechanisms through which accurate first impressions foster relationships make it easy to see how the findings could apply to other situations — for example, the ”relationship” between a candidate and a voter. Perhaps the way we talk about a candidate being “genuine” or having the ability to “connect” is simply a function of positive evaluations that results from giving off accurate first impressions.
Human, L., Sandstrom, G., Biesanz, J., & Dunn, E. (2012). Accurate First Impressions Leave a Lasting Impression: The Long-Term Effects of Distinctive Self-Other Agreement on Relationship Development Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550612463735