I really hate to say it, but I think they are extremely accurate. About a year ago, my dad, friend, and I were talking about how you determine who to associate with. To me, 1st impressions are a huge piece to that decision. Call it “gut” feel, but it seems to have served me pretty well so far- I have many great friends (you know who you are) who I pretty much knew would be great friends from the moment I met them. Yes, there are certainly exceptions to this general rule, but I seem to be able to pretty accurately gauge how good a friend will be based on my 1st impression. Does anyone else feel this way? If you are not a believer in 1st impressions, it would be great to hear your thoughts on the subject. Rob got me thinking about this topic with this post. BusinessPundit uses the following quote to defend the point that the opinion of a teacher by a complete stranger is about the same as that of someone who has sat through a semester long class:

In a 1993 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 64, No. 3), Ambady and a colleague videotaped 13 graduate teaching fellows as they taught their classes. She then took three random 10-second clips from each tape, combined them into one 30-second clip for each teacher and showed the silent clips to students who did not know the teachers. The student judges rated the teachers on 13 variables, such as “accepting,” “active,” “competent” and “confident.” Ambady combined these individual scores into one global rating for each teacher and then correlated that rating with the teachers’ end-of-semester evaluations from actual students.

“We were shocked at how high the correlation was,” she says. It was 0.76. In social psychology anything above 0.6 is considered very strong.

Curious to see how thin she could make her slices before affecting the student judges’ accuracy, Ambady cut the length of the silent clips to 15 seconds, and then to six. Each time, the students accurately predicted the most successful teachers.

“There was no significant difference between the results with 30-second clips and six-second clips,” Ambady says.

In a later experiment in the same study, she cut out the middleman–the global variable–and simply asked students to rate, based on thin-slice video clips, the quality and performance of the teachers. Again, the ratings correlated highly with the teachers’ end-of-semester evaluations. Ambady also replicated her results with high school teachers.

For more details info, check this link!


  • Rossmac

    This looks like an excerpt from a book called Blink by Malcom Gladwell – which covers this exact topic. There is no doubt that there is huge scientific and anecdotal evidence supporting the proposition that it is possible to make an accurate assessment of a person in a very short time. ( seconds !) Btw he wrote another book called The Tipping Point – which although it covers a different subject matter – is a much better read.

  • Drew Meyers

    Rossmac-
    The Tipping Point is a very fascinating book- I love thinking about things like the Power of Context. That book explains so many things. I haven’t read Blink yet- but it is on my list.

  • Sure, first impressions may be great for judging psychological makeup, but how much can we infer about quality of experience from a psychological dimension? For example, in college, I had an english teacher who was passionately “incompetent”. However, over the course of the semester I learned how she channeled this into making each one of us a much better writer: by letting go of our fears.

    Our first impressions may be correct, but our own privately held beliefs about what those impressions mean to us may be wrong in the first place.

    In this sense, our most valuable relationships can be the ones in which we completely misunderstood a person at first glance.

  • Drew Meyers

    I love your letting go of your fears mention- if you look at my quotes page, I actually have the Coach Carter quote in there- very powerful to let go of all your fears (hard tho).

    I’m at a blogging conference at the moment (and it’s not quiet)- I want to think about this and get back to you after I have some time to think.