The Good News About First Impressions

We regularly hear that first impressions are everything—that people size us up in the first few seconds after meeting us, and that meeting has a long-lasting impact on whatever relationship may develop. It puts a lot of pressure on that moment!

But there’s good news, according to research recently published in the journal Psychological Science. Although first impressions may be as important as we’ve long thought, psychologists from Harvard University and Cornell University found that they are typically more favorable than we realize.

In a series of experiments, two people met for the first time and held a conversation, and were then asked to rate their own performances in the meeting, as well as that of the other party. The results showed that people consistently rated themselves as less likeable in the meeting than their conversational counterparts.

Gus Cooney, the Harvard social psychologist who co-authored the paper, says that we are often so caught up in our side of a conversation that we project our own self-consciousness. The result is that we downplay the funny quip we made, while remembering the time we tripped over our words. But others don’t have such a frame of reference when they meet us for the first time, and thus are more prone to offering the benefit of the doubt.

The takeaway? Confidence is king. You’re more likeable than you realize. Like yourself, too, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

Related: 10 Best Practices for Making a Good Impression


Josh Ellis is the former editor in chief for SUCCESS magazine. Before joining SUCCESS in 2012, he was an accomplished digital and print sportswriter, working for the Dallas Cowboys Star magazine, the team’s gameday program, and Originally from Longview, Texas, he began writing for his hometown newspaper at 16.

Leave a Comment