First impressions last, but are they accurate on first dates?

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  • First impressions can give important clues as to the personality of an individual, especially on a first date
  • However, it is unclear if these impressions are reliable or not
  • A recent study shows that first impressions can be reliable, but that they depend on a range of factors

First dates are usually a make-or-break situation – if the right impression is made, it can result in future dates, with the prospect of a long-term relationship.

In society, first impressions are widely regarded as a good way to determine the personality type of someone you meet, but how reliable are first impressions?

A team of researchers attempted to answer this question by conducting a study that established whether accurate impressions of new people can be made in a situation where the stakes are high – such as a first date. Findings were published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

Personality assessments

The study involved the recruitment of 372 individuals to take part in a speed dating event in 2017, and again in 2018. Participants were requested to complete a questionnaire in order for the researchers to assess their personality type, as well as their overall wellbeing. 

A family member or friend was also asked to complete a questionnaire based on the participant's personality, after which subjects of the study went on a series of speed dates.

The dates were only three minutes in duration, and after each date, participants were asked to rate their date’s personality.

Some people are open books

While the average participant could accurately read their dates based on the first impression they obtained, it was a much harder task for others.

“Some people are open books whose distinctive personalities can be accurately perceived after a brief interaction, whereas others are harder to read,” said co-author Lauren Gazzard Kerr.

“Strikingly, people who report higher well-being, self-esteem, and satisfaction with life tend to make the task easier.”

But why is it that some people are easier to read than others? The researchers believe that this has to do with the way some people present themselves.

Importance of wellbeing

“Perhaps people that have greater well-being behave in ways that are more in line with their personality – being more authentic or true to themselves,” said assistant professor, Lauren J. Human.

The researchers also attributed wellbeing as a factor in how well a person can be read, by stating that “targets higher in wellbeing may make the task easier”.

The researchers are aiming to delve deeper and further investigate why it is that individuals with greater wellbeing are easier to read.

“Understanding why some people are able to be seen more accurately could help us determine strategies that other people could apply to enhance how accurately they are perceived,” Human concluded. 

Image credit: Pexels

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