The psychology behind first impressions

by Burlingham London June 01, 2017

The psychology behind first impressions

We live in an enlightened age, and modern technology has made the world smaller and our minds wider. Yet, first impressions still matter.

A quick glance at someone and we read them, from their hair, clothes choices and the watch on their wrist, right down to the shoes on their feet. Even your eyebrows come in for scrutiny these days and there are products, internet tutorials and salons galore that specialise in keeping them in line for both men and women.

So why do we still put so much emphasis on our first look at someone – and judge a book by its cover?

Friend or foe?

This is a topic much studied in psychology. Research has shown that it’s human instinct to sum people up – friend or foe – as a defense mechanism. And it takes just one-tenth of a second for that first impression to take place.

The judgement we reach in that time varies according to our own perceptions and status in society. Our instant mental image takes in such factors as gender, age, race and culture, physical appearance and clothing. We also evaluate such things as their posture and voice. In that brief moment of judgement, our brains can even assess the location and body language of the person to help formulate a view – are they in a crowd, stood alone, looking furtive or approachable?

One study by a professor of psychology at New York’s Cornell University found that subjects continued to be influenced by someone’s appearance not just on first glance, but also after interacting with them for a while. It shows that it's human nature and we are hardwired to judge outward appearance, to see if someone should be accepted into our tribe.

Choosing your first impression

Whether you go out of your way to make a good first impression in a particular situation is a matter of personal choice. Do you want to look the part, or stand out?

Job interviews and first dates are usually the times we work hard to make a good first impression. And meeting the in-laws for the first time!

Burlingham has a range of watches to help you make a statement – whatever first impression you are aiming for. But every craftsman-designed, precision timepiece provides every customer with one message for that moment of the first impression. “I’ve got good taste.”

Burlingham London
Burlingham London


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