Our parents often told us to work hard to make a positive first impression. They reminded us that first impressions matter a great deal, and that it's hard to recover from a bad start with someone. Well, it turns out that our parents were more right than we could have ever imagined. Let's take a look at some fascinating new research from Cornell Professor Vivian Zayas and her co-authors, Gul Gunaydin and Emre Selcuk. Their study is titled, "Impressions Based on a Portrait Predict, 1-Month Later, Impressions Following a Live Interaction.”
They asked 55 research subjects to examine photographs of a woman with whom they were not acquainted previously. The scholars asked the individuals to record their impressions of the woman in the photograph. The researchers asked if the subjects would like to be friends with the woman. In addition, the research subjects rated the woman on personality attributes such as emotional stability, conscientiousness, extroversion, and openness to new experiences. In some photos, the woman smiled. In others, she presented a neutral expression on her face. Between one and six months later, these research subjects met the woman in person. Only four people remembered seeing the woman in the photographs. They were excluded from the study's subsequent analysis. What about the other 51 research subjects? Their initial impressions from those photographs shaped their impressions of the woman months later in the face-to-face interaction. Zayas told the Cornell Chronicle, "What is remarkable is that despite differences in impressions, participants were interacting with the same person, but came away with drastically different impressions of her even after a 20-minute face-to-face interaction."