Posted September 12, 2014
Americans commonly nod or wave and say hello to each other. While this may seem more of a polite gesture than a sincere greeting, researchers suggest that people make instant first impressions based on these short exchanges.
Snap judgments on personality
According to an article in Forbes magazine, first impressions are crucial, especially in business transactions. And they are nearly impossible to undo or change. Researchers at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, recently studied first impressions and discovered that people make snap judgments on personality within a few seconds of hearing another person’s voice.
Researchers asked each participant in a 320-person study to listen to 64 different people say “hello” and match each voice to 10 character traits, such as aggressiveness, trustworthiness, confidence, dominance and warmth.
Researchers were surprised to discover that the majority of participants voted similarly, matching voices to similar character traits.
Recognizing human emotions
People also develop first impressions through nonverbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions.
Scientists at the University of Glasgow evaluated the emotions people portray by studying changes in facial muscles. With cameras, they took three-dimensional images of emotions exhibited by experts trained to use all 42 facial muscles separately. Using computer models, they replicated a range of human facial expressions with the images. Study participants evaluated the expressions and categorized them into four basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear/surprise and anger/disgust.
Next, researchers plan to study the facial expressions of people from other cultures to see whether they portray emotions in different ways.
When we begin to understand how to navigate verbal and nonverbal cues we receive from others, we can better communicate with those around us.