How strong and lasting are first impressions?

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Imagine if you and I, or your group members, are meeting for the first time! Impression research indicates that what we see in others, initially, and what others see in us tends to be remembered. It seems that most of us have a tendency to give more weight to our first impressions of a person than to our later impressions. This tendency is called the primacy effect.[1] 

What does this primacy effect suggest to you in taking a class from a teacher, in getting acquainted with others, or in preparing for a job interview?  

What kinds of characteristics do most of us remember? Research by Charles Osgood  indicates that people remember basically three dimensions:

1. an evaluation dimension such as good/bad,

2. a potency dimension such as a strong/weak,

3. an activity dimension such as active/passive.

Solomon Asch illustrated this point in presenting the following list of adjectives: Which person would you rather have for your friend? Do you see any difference?

Person A Person B

Intelligent

Intelligent

Skillful

Skillful

Industrious

Industrious

Warm

Cold

Determined

Determined

Practical

Practical

Cautious

Cautious

Answer: If you chose Person A, you are like most people, who tend to see the characteristics of warm and cold as central, i.e., people give more weight to them, and remember them more easily,

Another experiment by Solomon Asch  provides additional evidence for first impression research. Consider the following. What is the impression of Person A and Person B?

Person A Person B

Intelligent

Envious

Industrious

Stubborn

Impulsive

Critical

Critical

Impulsive

Stubborn

Industrious

Envious

Intelligent

Solomon Asch found that Person A was seen more favorably, i.e., he found that the adjectives that were presented first tended to be remembered easier. [2]

Assignment

List five or six adjectives  that describe yourself to the instructor.

Pay attention to those positive characteristics which you want others to remember. List them in the order that you want people to remember them, as people tend to remember the information they hear first in any given order. Can you think of how being aware of first impressions are important for you? What did you learn about yourself ? [3] 

     1. Don E. Hamachek, Encounter with Others:Interpersonal Relationships and You, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.,1982,
         p. 108
     2. Ibid.,
 Don  E .Hamachek,   pages 10-11
     3.  David Johnson
, Reaching Out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-Actualization,8th ed., Boston : Allyn and Bacon 1997,  p. 61,

Email: rbrehm@msn.com 
Copyright 1998  [Robert Brehm]. All rights reserved.

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