Psychology behind first impressions

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Psychology behind first impressions

How is the first impression formed?
And what's the psychology behind first impressions?

There are many theories that tend to explain how we quickly form an impression about someone we just met. For example we quickly assume that beautiful people have many good traits just because we learned how to associate good looks with good traits as the result of the programming we received from the media.

Another theory states that we find more familiar faces more likable because our brains does less effort processing their looks (see attractiveness perception psychology)

While all of these theories were proven to be true still a large amount of evidence is pointing to the fact that each person evaluates the looks of others according to a private internal system instead of evaluating them according to universal rules.

In this article i will tell you about the psychology behind a first impression from the perspective of individual psychology.

Individual psychology and first impression

Individual psychology is the school of psychology that follows common sense the most and that was developed by Alfred Adler.

According to individual psychology each and every action that we take, even if this action was useless such as procrastination for example, is there to serve a certain unconscious psychological goal.

In my previous article why do people hesitate i explained how procrastination or quitting midway can be methods the person uses to reach his psychological goal of not testing his self worth!

So what does this has to do with the psychology of first impression?
Just like we do the actions that helps us reach our goals we evaluate the looks of others by finding out to what extent can those people help us reach out psychological goal. (see Understnading someone's behaviour)

For example a showy person might only be attracted to blonds, if blonds were rare in his culture, because this will help him reach the psychological goal of showing off.

If a person hates laziness and if he was mistakenly taught by the media that obese people are lazy then he might never be attracted to obese people. This is an example of how distorted beliefs about something can affect the first impression we form of people.

More about the psychology behind first impression

A study has shown that a woman finds men who look more masculine to be more attractive when they are the most fertile however the same woman finds men with more feminine features to be more attractive during other times of the month.

If this shows anything it would be that the first impression we form of people is to a great extent dependent on our goals. When the woman is more fertile she needs to get a baby but in other times of the month she needs a nurturing partner and that's why the first impression she forms of others changes around the month.

Of course that's not the only concept first impression psychology is built upon but that's certainly one of the factors that affects the formation of a first impression.

People feel bad when they don't look like media stars because of believing that everyone will compare their looks to those stars and while that's true to a certain extent still each and every person will use his internal rules to form his first impression of you.

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