Whether we like it or not, it takes just three seconds to come to a conclusion about someone new (Flora, 2004). First impressions strike like lightning and before we hear the thunder, we have formed a first opinion. “According to New York University, Graduate School of Business, people make eleven decisions about us in the first seven seconds of contact: (1) education level, (2) economic level, (3) perceived creditability and believability, (4) trustworthiness, (5) level of sophistication, (6) sexual identification, (7) level of success, (8) political background, (9) religious background, (10) ethnic background, and (11) social and professional desirability” (Boucher, 2009, p. 1). Personally, I immediately assess character and attitude when I see or read text about someone for the first time.
When reading Clark’s (2010) “First Impressions” for the first time, I assessed John’s character to be that of an extrovert, governing the situations he was confronted with from walking on the sunny side of the sidewalk to greeting a woman he had just met. In the second scenario, John appeared to be an introvert, avoiding any confrontation, positive or negative. If the scenarios were intentionally reversed, and I had read it for the first time, I might unconsciously think John was an introvert, even while reading the second scenario. My first impression of his character would have stayed with me in this reversal. Consciously or unconsciously, a first impression can easily influence us, thus achieving a desired effect.
One example of consciously influencing a first impression is known as impression management. Corporations use this technique, defined as “the goal-directed activity of controlling information about a person, object, entity, idea, or event” (Provis, 2010, p. 199). Impression management is consciously and carefully orchestrated by corporations as a tactic to influence our purchasing or spending habits. The personable greeters at our local Wal-Mart make sure we have a good first impression as we walk into the store. The end-goal is for us to stay longer to purchase more. There is nothing ethically wrong with trying to get more out of us as consumers. No pressure is involved. In the same sense, a nice restaurant will put a well-dressed host or hostess at the front to greet us. A good first impression has been achieved, and we will most likely return to eat.
Accomplishing a desired effect can also be achieved through individual impression management, defined as a “tactic of influence by which we attempt to influence the reactions and images people have of us and our ideas” (Provis, 2010, p. 200). In other words, we are controlled by a tactical maneuver on the part of an individual. By controlling the order of the scenarios presented, my first impression about John was influenced. I was manipulated into thinking John was an extrovert by reading the positive scenario first. Even creating negative first impressions can be a tactical...