Home » News » First Impressions Are More Lasting Than Once Thought

First Impressions Are More Lasting Than Once Thought

First Impressions Are More Lasting Than Once ThoughtEmerging international research shows there is more than a literal truth to the saying that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Experts have discovered that new experiences that contradict a first impression become “bound” to the context in which they were made, whereas first impressions still dominate in other contexts.

“Imagine you have a new colleague at work and your impression of that person is not very favorable,” said lead author Bertram Gawronski.  “A few weeks later, you meet your colleague at a party and you realize he is actually a very nice guy.

“Although you know your first impression was wrong, your gut response to your new colleague will be influenced by your new experience only in contexts that are similar to the party. However, your first impression will still dominate in all other contexts.”

According to Gawronski, our brain stores expectancy-violating experiences as exceptions-to-the-rule, such that the rule is treated as valid except for the specific context in which it has been violated.

To investigate the persistence of first impressions, Gawronski and his collaborators showed their study participants either positive or negative information about an unknown individual on a computer screen.

Later in the study, participants were presented with new information about the same individual, which was inconsistent with the initial information.

To study the influence of contexts, the researchers subtly changed the background color of the computer screen while participants formed an impression of the target person.

When the researchers subsequently measured participants’ spontaneous reactions to an image of the target person, they found the new information influenced participants’ reactions only when the person was presented against the background in which the new information had been learned.

Otherwise, participants’ reactions were still dominated by the first information when the target person was presented against other backgrounds.

Although these results support the common observation that first impressions are notoriously persistent, Gawronski notes they can sometimes be changed.

“What is necessary is for the first impression to be challenged in multiple different contexts. In that case, new experiences become decontextualized and the first impression will slowly lose its power.

“But, as long as a first impression is challenged only within the same context, you can do whatever you want. The first impression will dominate regardless of how often it is contradicted by new experiences.”

According to Gawronski, the research also has important implications for the treatment of clinical disorders. “If someone with phobic reactions to spiders is seeking help from a psychologist, the therapy will be much more successful if it occurs in multiple different contexts rather than just in the psychologist’s office.”

The research is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

Source: The University of Western Ontario

First Impressions Are More Lasting Than Once Thought

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). First Impressions Are More Lasting Than Once Thought. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/01/19/first-impressions-are-more-lasting-than-once-thought/22769.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.