Neuroscience of first impression

Neuroscience of first impression

Image perception and first impression creation process is somehow similar to the decision-making process when it comes to buying products. Economics Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman describes the decision making process theory in his book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’.

While we would like to believe that we make decisions based on calculation of needs, price and product benefits, we actually based on our intuition and emotions. Kahneman describes two systems: System 1 is the lazy one – intuitive and emotional, the one he calls ‘a machine for jumping into conclusion’.

The conscious assessment of product features and benefits, comes later and requires effort and energy. That process is a rational system 2. As Kahneman says: ‘You generally believe your impressions and act on your desires’.

This is exactly what happens when it comes to first impression. The intuition, feelings and desires take over and we jump into conclusion. We do not have time to analyze all elements, it is the general feel that is created instantly that impacts us the most.

Similarly to packaging of the product and information the package contains. Customers rarely spend time to look at the detailed information. Our brain actively seeks information that confirms its view of the world, and if the information is not available or missing, it simply fills the gaps by making up the stories, that it can access from its own memory.

First impession cognitive systems

When it comes to first impression of someone, we base our opinion on very little information. But our brain needs to fill the gaps, so it draws conclusions to create a full picture. That picture is a result of a person’s previous experience, hence the created image might be different and is more a reflection of own beliefs, values, expectations than the reality.

The more information we have about the other person, the more contacts and interactions, the more detailed the picture is. Another important factor is time. With time we can actually think and assess the information. We suppress the first impression and feelings and we start rationalizing.

It is striking, how many resemblances it has with a buying process. The less information and time we have to make a buying decision, the more likely we are to make an intuitive, emotional purchase. The cheaper the product, the more likely we are to make the quick decision. If we are buying an expensive product like a house or a car, we take our time, we analyze and compare.

Very similarly we react to people. We heavily rely on first impression and we quickly jump into conclusions based on persons appearance and behavior. But when it comes to important matters like choosing an employee, we run an extensive process. We gather information, conduct meetings, compare and evaluate. The first impression gives us the feel, that impacts the way we perceive the candidate.  If it is positive we are more likely to interpret the other information to his or her benefit. If the impression is not positive, even best resume will not convince us.

Intuition is your sixth sense