Things People Decide Within Seconds of Meeting You

Within moments of meeting you, people decide all sorts of things about you, from status to intelligence to conscientiousness.

Career experts say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.

Fortunately, you have some control over the way others see you. For example, wearing tailored clothes and looking your conversation partner in the eye will generally create a more positive impression. But as for how aggressive you seem? That’s largely determined by your facial structure.

Drake Baer and Yu Han contributed reporting on a previous version of this article, according to businessinsider.com.

Here, we’ve rounded up some assumptions people make about you – sometimes accurate and sometimes less so – based on first impressions.


People judge how much they should trust another person after only just meeting them.

People may decide on your trustworthiness in as little as a tenth of a second.

Princeton researchers found this out by giving one group of 245 university students 100 milliseconds to rate the attractiveness, competence, likability, aggressiveness, and trustworthiness of actors’ faces.

One hundred and twenty-eight members of another group were able to take as long as they wanted. Results showed that ratings of trustworthiness were highly similar between the two groups – even more similar than ratings of attractiveness – suggesting that we figure out almost instantaneously if we can trust someone.


People also judge your socioeconomic status just by looking at you.

A small Dutch study found that people wearing name-brand clothes – Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger, to be precise – were seen as higher status and wealthier than folks wearing nondesigner clothes when they approached 80 shoppers in a mall.

“Perceptions did not differ on any of the other dimensions that might affect the outcome of social interactions,” the authors wrote. “There were no differences in perceived attractiveness, kindness, and trustworthiness.”

Just status and wealth.


People determine how smart they think you are after just meeting you.

A 2007 study led by Nora A. Murphy, a professor at Loyola Marymount University, found that looking your conversation partner in the eye might help encourage people to see you as more intelligent.

For the study, 182 college students were asked to discuss an assigned topic in pairs for five minutes. Partners then rated each other on how smart they seemed. Results showed that people were perceived as more intelligent when they held their partner’s gaze while talking.

“Looking while speaking was a key behavior,” she wrote.

Wearing thick glasses and speaking expressively could help, too.


Your appearance can also signal how dominant people think you are.

Bald isn’t just beautiful, it’s powerful.

In a small University of Pennsylvania experiment, undergrads looked at 25 photos of men, some with shaved heads and others with full heads of hair. The students rated men with shaved heads as more dominant.

Two larger follow-up experiments with 344 and 552 adults, respectively, had similar results. Participants tended to rate bald men – those who’d had their hair either digitally removed or those with shaved heads – as more dominant.

Importantly, researchers found that it was specifically shaved heads that people seemed to associate with dominance – not just the lack of hair. So if it’s starting to go, you might want to shave it.


If you want to look successful, get your clothes tailored.

A British-Turkish study of 274 people had them look at faceless photos of men in tailored vs. off-the-peg suits for five seconds. They tended to rate the guys in tailored suits as more successful.

“On the evidence of this study it appears men may be advised to purchase clothing that is well‐tailored, as it can positively enhance the image they communicate to others,” the authors wrote.

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