“You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” This statement, while thrown around casually, is truer today than we previously suspected according to science.
Recent research explains how we are helping/hurting our chances of landing a job, securing a promotion or even getting a date. Here are a few of the findings.
In one study out of Scotland, 320 participants listened to the “hellos” of 64 men and women and were asked to rate them on ten different personality traits such as confidence, trustworthiness and dominance. Most of the participants agreed on which voice they felt matched a particular personality trait. For instance the majority of the participants felt men with lower pitched voices to be untrustworthy while women, who generally have higher pitches, were determined to be more trustworthy. Whether women are actually more trustworthy makes little difference. As the researcher pointed out, “What we find is that they [participants] all seem to perceive that one voice is the most trustworthy and another voice is the least trustworthy.”
A joint study from the Univ. of Michigan and Pennsylvania found that people who merely hold an alcoholic beverage are perceived as less intelligent than those who do not. The researchers call this the “imbibing idiot bias”. Basically because we closely associate drinking with idiocy, we assume anyone holding a drink will act like an idiot. According to their study, job applicants who ordered wine during dinner were viewed as less intelligent than their soda drinking counterparts. In follow up studies, the researchers had 109 participants rate photos of actors who were holding either a bottle of beer or a glass of water. The H2O actors were rated as significantly more intelligent.
Research out of Princeton showed that people decide your trustworthiness in a tenth of a second! Two groups of university students were shown actors’ faces and were instructed to rate the actors for several attributes such as attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness and aggressiveness. One group was given only milliseconds to rate the pictures while the other could take as long as they wanted. Both groups disagreed on most of the traits but the agreement on trustworthiness between the two groups was essentially the same. So consider the ramifications of this. When you shake an interviewer’s hand or anyone you’ve just met, they have determined whether they feel you are trustworthy even before you lock fingers.
A British study found that women with visible tattoos were considered to be heavier drinkers and more promiscuous than their non-inked peers. The research does not suggest that tattooed women are indeed alcoholics or are more sexually amorous just that they are perceived as such.
Another study out of the Univ. of Penn. found that men with shaved heads were rated as more dominant. Not men who were balding and holding onto a few clumps of hair but men who had shaved their hair clean off. Shaved heads and dominance may have nothing in common but the perception still exists.
What all this evidence points to is that humans judge each other quickly and our chances of succeeding can be affected by the manner in which we speak “hello”, a small tattoo adorning our ankle or a casual sip of wine. Consider this research before your next video interview, the next time you walk through your boss’ door or before you post pictures of your dinner party. In this age someone is always watching and always judging.