First Impressions: There’s More to Them Than Meets the Eye



There is more to first impressions than meets the eye.

Karyss Park, Photojournalist

With first impressions, the stakes are high—they’re an integral part of our everyday lives and play an extremely significant role in the development of personal relationships. We only get one chance at a first impression, and often want to make it perfect. From job interviews to first dates, a first impression can make or break you. After all, it is only after a successful or adequate first impression that a second one is allowed to be made. Ever heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Humans judge books by their covers, quickly and hard. In a brief first impression, there may be a lot more going on behind the scenes than you think.

First impressions are really important because they influence how I’ll see and treat a person.”

— Cara Tang (12)

On average, first impressions are formed within a “mere seven seconds” ( We tend to focus on a person’s appearance and tone of voice, rather than what they are actually saying. As a part of the evolutionary process to aid, humans’ first impressions of each other are influenced by factors such as “facial shape, vocal inflection, attractiveness, and general emotional state” ( “Pretty privilege” and the enhanced likeliness of trusting people with baby faces occurs as a result of this. Cara Tang (12) thinks “first impressions are really important because” they influence how “[she’ll] see and treat a person.” She also notes that she might befriend someone who gives off a “shy and friendly” first impression, but “could [later] find out that in reality, they’re the complete opposite.” “Trustworthiness, physical strength, and intentions to do harm” are judged through observed “subtle facial and vocal cues,” but the attributes that form first impressions may vary “slightly across cultures” ( For example, some studies have shown that Chinese societies “form first impressions based on competence” over physical strength ( 


At first, people tend to underestimate their own likeability, a phenomenon dubbed by experts as the “liking gap” ( We are often our own worst critics, and magnify our imperfections even if others do not perceive them nearly as much. This is known as the “spotlight effect,” where we “believe that others are hyper-focused on [us]” and judge our every flaw.


Typically, those who believe they are viewed well “tend to have higher self-esteem,” and are correct to a certain extent ( By believing that they possess certain positive attributes, people are more likely to actually project those positive attributes. However, narcissism, coming on too strong, oversharing too early, “dominating the conversation, or placing unreasonable demands on other people you don’t know well” can be deterring ( Initially, narcissism can give the false impression that someone is “charming and attractive,” but “quickly sours” in time (

Ultimately, although there are certain factors that cannot be helped when it comes to first impressions, the way people carry and perceive themselves is vital to their image and likability.