Imagine attending a college graduation ceremony and the man giving the keynote address strolls with hunched shoulders up to the podium. His hair has dreadlocks and stands on end in several places. His clothes look as if he quickly picked them out of the bargain bin of the local Goodwill Store. He is wearing a striped sports jacket, plaid golf pants and white, athletic socks with his bright, Bronco orange Crocs. Based solely on this information, will the audience listen intently and gain inspiration from the knowledge this man has to impart? Is it possible for his words to have the same impact on this particular audience as a speaker who marched confidently up to the podium, his head held high, his hair neatly combed, his suit meticulously tailored, and shoes polished to a glossy shine? Most likely not because human nature takes over and first impressions form.
First impressions are powerful and can be difficult to overcome. Research shows first impressions form within a few moments of an encounter and may take many additional encounters to overcome (Tongue, 2007). Observers use many different criteria, such as personal beliefs, verbal cues, non-verbal cues, and aesthetic cues, to form first impressions. However, content has little to do with the impact of a first impression. Appearance has the most impact on a first impression. In fact, only 7% of an impression comes from the actual content of a message. Another 35% of the impression comes from the delivery of the message; tone, inflection and pitch. This leaves, a very large percentage, approximately 55%, of an impression forming based on visualization, how one appears (Jeavons, 2007). Imagine appearance being the deciding factor rather than knowledge. This is human nature.
When an encounter is made, an observer uses the observed information to form preconceived notions or an impression about a person’s character, living style, education level, fiscal fitness, and personality. People draw on life experiences to help them in forming first impressions of other individuals. People tend to perceive other as they perceive themselves. For example, a person who bites their fingernails when they are nervous may perceive all others who bite their fingernails also to be nervous. A laid-back person may perceive a disciplined individual as stuffy and unapproachable. Unfortunately, first impressions are not always indicative of how a person is in real life. To understand completely how a person may be perceived by another or why they perceive others as they do, they must have some understanding of human behavior itself.
Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” helps provide insight into understanding human behavior. According to Maslow, people will behave a particular way based on their life circumstances. For example, an individual who is starving can only concentrate on satisfying that hunger. This individual cannot rise above scavenging for food until he is no longer hungry. When the...