From three-minute speed dates to employment recruitment booths, the accuracy of first impressions is important. A new study finds that most people do pretty well in assessing someone based on a quick first impression.

Researchers had two separate groups of more than 100 people meet in a “getting-acquainted” session, with each person expected to visit with everyone else in the group for three minutes.

At the end of each three-minute chat, they rated each other’s personalities, and rated how well they thought their impressions “would agree with someone who knows this person very well.”

Researchers also had people fill out their own personality reports, and quizzed friends or family members to obtain a solid depiction of an individual’s personality.

For the most part, participants were able to assess the other’s personality after the three-minute visit, a finding that corresponds with research suggesting that impressions can be accurate after short interactions.

Interestingly, some degree of candor scored the best, as the highest degree of accuracy on the personality ratings came from individuals who believed they would be moderately accurate on ranking. Participants who believed they would be highly accurate on rating others’ personality were no better than individuals who believed they would be moderately accurate.

The results suggest there are two key factors to improve our accuracy when judging another’s personality.

Researcher Jeremy Biesanz, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia, said that although there are differences in personality, for the most part, people are mostly alike—for example, almost everyone would prefer being friendly to being quarrelsome.

The more people rated their partner’s personality in a way typical of most everyone, the more accurate they felt their perception was. And because most people are like most people, they were indeed being accurate.

“Many important decisions are made after very brief encounters—which job candidate to hire, which person to date, which student to accept,” write the authors.

“Although our first impressions are generally accurate, it is it critical for us to recognize when they may be lacking.”

Source: SAGE Publications