First Impressions: Meeting Someone New
Amanda Schroeder
Kent State University
Advanced Interpersonal
First Impressions: Meeting Someone New
Impression management is prevalent in every day life and has been studied by various
communication scholars. First impressions are important to our everyday interactions because of
the lasting impact that they have on everyone we meet. Across various contexts, such as in social
settings, in roommate situations, in classroom settings, and even while watching movies, first
impressions are constantly being formed. Some claims have been formed about impressions: first
impressions are lasting impressions and can help predict outcomes of relationships, proper
introduction styles and nonverbal cues are key in forming good first impressions, and first
impressions have a shaping influence across many different contexts. The study of first
impressions can greatly help individuals to alter their own behaviors and allow them to make
their best possible impression. Since impressions are lasting, it is important that individuals make
positive impressions in all situations.
CLAIM: First impressions are lasting impressions and can help predict outcomes of
Over time, opinions of a person can change as the relationship between the two people
move further. However, it has been found that once an impression has been made it is not easily
forgotten (Horan & Houser 2012). Before meeting someone, we organize them into a certain
mental category based on previous assumptions about that person. If those assumptions are
proven to be true, or other assumptions are formed during the first encounter, the first impression
(positive or negative) will be always be associated with that person. This claim is supported by
the Predicted Outcome Value Theory. Predicted Outcome Value Theory is a theory that supports
the fact that initial impressions can be predictive of relational outcomes and lasting impressions
(Marek, Knapp, & Wanzer 2004) and (Horan & Houser 2012).
A study was conducted about the unconscious responses from conversational participants
and observers (Monahan & Zuckerman 1999). Through this study the researchers learned that
nonconscious negative interactions lead to negative impressions, and nonconscious positive
interactions lead to positive impressions (Monahan & Zuckerman 1999). This study supported
previous findings from the Predicted Outcome Value theory. And confirms the fact that first
impressions are lasting.
Marek, Knapp and Wanzer (2004) used Predicted Outcome Value theory to study
introductions and lasting impressions as well. This study applies the Predicted Outcome Value
theory to first impressions of roommates. They explain (as previous articles have) that first
impressions are lasting, and that initial interactions, whether positive or negative help determine
the likelihood of living with that roommate again in the future (Marek, Knapp, & Wanzer, 2004).
Positive first interactions generally lead to positive lasting relationships, and negative
interactions lead to less positive relationships and relationships with shorter duration.
CLAIM: Proper introduction styles and nonverbal cues are key in forming good
first impressions.
If someone is introduced in a proper way (using mediators) and gives a positive vibe to
those around them, the interaction will result in a positive lasting impression (Pillet-Shore 2011).
Contrastingly, if mediators in introduction situations do not follow social norms, and give off a
negative vibe, people meeting will more likely get a negative impression of them from the first
initial interaction. Nonverbal cues by both the mediator and the two people being introduced to
one another impact the initial impression. It is said that people believe what is done (nonverbal
behaviors), over what is said when forming first impressions (Hiemstra 1999). The importance of
nonverbal cues such as hand shakes and eye contact impact the lasting impression which is
formed in such initial interactions.
Another study analyzed the impact on the naturally occurring introductions, social norms
for introductions, and the desire for reduction of uncertainty through interaction (Pillet-Shore
2011). The findings show that the way someone is introduced, wether it be by the help of a
mediator (mutual friend), or through the direct assertion of the unknown parties, impacts the first
impression of that person (Pillet-Shore 2011). The use of a mediator prevents awkward
encounters and follows most closely with social norms, making it more acceptable. The findings
of this article conclude that the way an introduction is built impacts the interaction between two
new acquaintances. It is important to know how to introduce individuals when they are meeting
for the first time, in order to form the best impression possible.
Hiemstra’s (1999) research, done in a business setting, indicated that being
knowledgeable of ones own nonverbal communication can be very useful in tailoring ones own
first impressions and can also help one draw conclusions about others. Other research also
supports the fact that nonverbal cues, such as ones eye contact and handshake, are even more
important than the verbal communication in first interactions. Hiemstra (1999) also found that
when verbal and nonverbal communications contradict, people tend to believe the nonverbal.
Being knowledgeable about the different nonverbal cues and being a good encoder and decoder
can help ones own impression management and will help in forming positive impressions in all
CLAIM: First impressions have a shaping influence in many different contexts.
On the first day of class, during the first teacher student encounter, if a positive vibe was
given to students, it would lead to a more positive first impression, and a more positive attitude
throughout the duration class (Hayward 2003). Horan and Hauser (2012) confirmed this finding
about the impact of students by their first impression of their teachers as well. They found that
initial impressions on the first day of class were directly correlated to the lasting impressions that
students had on the teacher and the class in general. They found that if on the first day of class, if
students felt that the teacher would have reciprocal and responsive communication, with little
negativity, students would value exchanges for the remainder of the semester, leading to a
positive overall experience (Horan & Hauser 2012). This study used the Predicted Outcome
Value theory to compare student’s initial impressions of their teachers to their lasting impression
of their teacher in a longitudinal study. Predicted Outcome Value supports that by arguing that,
during initial interactions, people form judgments that are lasting and predictive for future
relationship development (Horan and Hauser 2012).
Another study analyzed the impact of impressions formed of movie characters. The study
revealed that the first impression of movie characters can distort the intended experience the
viewer will have with the movie, possibly giving a viewer a negative unintended view on the
movie as a whole (Sanders 2010). For example from the study, many would immediately
characterize Superman as a hero, because of the characteristics he displays. However, others may
see his tactics of hiding his identity as deceitful and, based on the impression, would dislike his
character and have a possibly negative view of the movie as a whole (Sanders 2010). This study
supports the fact that first impressions are influential and lasting, because of the fact that
impression of the movie characters can change the person’s overall impression of the movie.
Another technology related study looks at impression formation in computer mediated
communication. Physical and nonphysical social cues are provided and directly impact how
others are perceived, including positivity of impressions (Tanis & Postmes 2003). In today’s
world CMC is impossible to ignore. The study shows that providing social cues in CMC
interactions impacts perceptions of others in a similar way that it would in face to face
interactions (Tanis & Postumes2003).
As discussed earlier Marek, Knapp and Wanzer (2004) studied introductions and lasting
impressions in roommates. They also used Predicted Outcome Value theory to explain that first
impressions are lasting. The fact that a roommate is someone that you will most likely have to
live with for an extended period of time make the impression formations even more crucial. The
first impression (as mentioned earlier), is lasting and can be a determinant in the predicted
longevity of the relationship and the likelihood that the roommates will live together again in the
In another study, the Language Expectancy Theory is used to analyze the impressions
supervisors have of new employees in business settings (Foste and Botero 2012). Their perceived
communication competence, formed after their initial interaction, in areas such as their ability to
produce content and deliver content to someone superior to them in the workplace, will predict
their reputation and their impression of perceived work competence. (Foste & Botero 2012).
Along with the research from Hiemstra’s study (1999), business impressions have proven to be
very important.
Practical Implications
The importance of good impression formation could be put into practice and could be
taught to people to help them better understand how to manage their impressions across contexts.
Schools could implement nonverbal communication tutorials or workshops with specialization in
impression management starting around middle school age. They could do separate workshops
for important cues applying to the various contexts. Starting in middle school and going through
high school, teachers could implement impression management education by adding nonverbal
skills in the curriculum. This would be helpful to better prepare young adults for the real world
and have them ready to form good and lasting impressions not only is future social interactions,
but also in future employment situations.
In conclusion, the analysis of these studies and the inquiry about the proposed research
questions helps us to better understand impressions and the lasting impact they leave upon those
we meet. Throughout the previous studies in contexts including the classroom, roommate
situations, movies, at the work place and in social settings the emerging themes about
impressions remained; that they are important and lasting. Studies found the importance of first
impressions styles and introductions can impact the quality and duration of the relationship. The
fact that impressions have such an influence across many contexts shows the prevalence that it
has to daily life. Previous research has concluded that first impressions are lasting impressions
and can help predict outcomes of relationships. Also, proper introduction styles and nonverbal
cues are key in forming good first impressions and first impressions have a shaping influence on
the way we are perceived by others, effecting our social lives, our careers and our everyday
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