First impression (psychology)

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In psychology, a first impression is the event when one person first encounters another person and forms a mental image of that person. It can sometimes form an accurate representation of the person, depending on the observer and the person being observed.[1]


'The phrase "first impressions" comes directly from the terminology of sentimental literature...where "first impressions" exhibit the strength and truth of the heart's immediate and intuitive response'.[2] Pride and Prejudice has been seen as a 'glancing blow aimed at the conventions of the sentimental novel'[3] - at the "prejudices" inherent in the casual adoption of first impressions.

As 'a novel in which the adage "first impressions are lasting impressions" proves a test rather than a truth', it charts the movement 'from first impressions and prejudice, to reflections and revisions'.[4]

Social processing[edit]

'First impressions are lasting impressions', and although sometimes misleading, 'research shows that in many situations, our impressions of other people can be quite accurate'.[5] Only in more serious situations is 'going beyond first impressions to seek greater accuracy in person perception sometimes important'.[6]

It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression, with confidence in impression formation increasing with increasing time taken to form the impression.[7]


Brain circuitry allows a bypassing of the neo-cortex by way of the so-called amygdala hijack: 'this smaller and shorter pathway allows the amygdala to receive some direct inputs from the senses and start a response before they are fully registered by the neo-cortex'.[8]

Research has shown that 'in the first few milliseconds of our perceiving something we not only unconsciously comprehend what it is, but decide whether we like it or not: the "cognitive unconscious"'.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Flora, Carlin (2004-05-14). "The First Impression". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2011-02-20. 
  2. ^ Brian Southam, in Tony Tanner ed., Pride and Prejudice (Penguin 1975) p. 10
  3. ^ Tanner, p. 11
  4. ^ C. L. Johnson/C. Tuite, A Companion to Jane Austen (2009) p. 113-5
  5. ^ Eliot R. Smith/Diane M. Mackie, Social Psychology (2007) p. 86 and p. 57
  6. ^ Smith, p. 92
  7. ^ Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions: Making up your mind after 100 ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science, 17, 592-598.
  8. ^ Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (1996) p. 18
  9. ^ Goleman, p. 20