First Impressions of Beauty

Beautiful woman
First Impressions Take Less Than a Second to Form
They say you only have one chance to make a first impression. According to the results of a study conducted by researchers at University of Pennsylvania, these first impressions can take only a fraction of a second to form.
"We're able to judge attractiveness with surprising speed and on the basis of very little information," notes Ingrid Olson, the study’s lead author and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Pretty People Prosper
The study, appearing in the American Psychological Association published journal Emotion, also reveals that attractive people are more likely to be described as possessing positive traits. This supports previous research that has demonstrated that good-looking people benefit in a number of different ways, ranging from earning higher wages to being perceived as more intelligent.
In a different study, investigators found that even very young children had more positive reactions to a pretty teacher than to an average looking teacher. The pretty teacher was more likely to be described as ‘nice,’ ‘fair,’ and ‘smart,’ while the average-looking teacher was called ‘mean,’ ‘unfair,’ and ‘boring.’ These different reactions are especially startling since there was no difference in the behavior of the two teachers.
"Research has demonstrated time and again that there are tremendous social and economic benefits to being attractive," Olsen explains, noting that other research has shown that even infants prefer looking at pretty faces.
Measuring First Impressions
Three different methods were used to measure responses to attractive faces. In the first experiment, researchers flashed images of non-famous strangers on a computer screen for 0.013 seconds. Participants were then asked to rate the attractiveness of the face they had seen onscreen. Despite the mere fraction of a second of viewing time, participants were able to form an accurate impression of the attractiveness of the individuals they saw.
The second and third experiment’s explored a phenomenon known as “priming.” Researchers wanted to know if seeing an attractive person made the participants more likely to associate positive attributes to that individual. First, an image of a face was shown on a computer screen. Then, a word was briefly displayed. Participants were timed on how fast they classified a word as good or bad. Consistent with previous research, people were able to correctly classify good words faster after seeing an attractive face. Olson suggests that, "In a way, pretty faces are rewarding; they make us more likely to think good thoughts."
Because first impressions form so rapidly, it is important to present yourself well when meeting new people. Be sure that you look your best in order to make the best possible impression and remember that these impressions take only a fraction of a second to form.
Photo: Shutterstock
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