The First Impression
"Read my lips. No new taxes." The well groomed candidate shouted to his
audience. The crowd erupted in cheers and for many Americans, this was
their first long lasting impression of soon to be, President George Bush.
He later went on to sign a bill implementing the second largest tax hike
in history. The statement that won him one election lost him the next.
The American public made a long term judgment based on the first
impression of this presidential candidate. After the speech, the media
took over, promoting Bush, and giving those who did not hear the speech
an impression of the candidate. As Americans found out, trusting a first
judgment is a dangerous practice, for it does not allow for a clear long
term judgment of the person in question. The first impression is
influenced by many factors, mainly the physical appearance, one's own
past experiences and other peoples judgments. Indeed, first impressions
are dangerous, but they are also inevitable, for it is a natural instinct
that every person is born with.
Take the classic cliché "You cannot judge a book by its cover." Not
everything is what it seems to be. A young man who was on a quest to
find himself decided to do a trek across the United States. When he
reached the state of Arizona, he met up with a man in ragged clothes,
messy hair and in need of a bath. Still, the young man started up a
conversation and found this hobo to be very intellectual and pleasant man
despite his appearance. As night approached each went and sought shelter
for the night, but before they departed the hobo said "You think I'm a
bum, am I right?" Being truthful the young man replied "Yes."
"I am really a millionaire," the hobo confessed, "I dress and live this
way because I want to be taken for who I am and not my money." The hobo
is a prime example of how appearances can be deceiving.
While appearance is part of a first impression, so is a person's past.
Experiences form the past influence decisions and first impressions of
the future. Take for example the convenience store owner that had many
problems with teenage boys shoplifting merchandise. He has lost faith in
teenage boys and refuses to trust any teenage boy, no matter how honest
he is, because to the owner, all teenage boys are shoplifters. This
impression that the owner has is dangerous because if customers do not
feel trusted in a store, they tend to take their business elsewhere.
Another example is the common stereotype of women. More in the past than
now people were taught what was a man's work and what was a woman's work.
This even continued into the 1960-70's where shop class (wood work) was
for boys and home economics was for girls. The woman's movement that
became very radical in the 1960's and 1970's
actually started in the late 1800's where women won the right to study
medicine in university. It was not until the early 1900's that married
women could keep their jobs, and it was not until 1928 that women could
compete in the Olympic, breaking the stereotype that women could not be
athletic. It was the pre-conceived notions and first impressions that
promoted these stereotypes and hindered their achievement.
The final thing that controls a person's first impression is their views
of others. Many have set impressions on a person without even meeting
and getting to know the person. One source of many views and opinion is
the media. It seems that whatever the television reports or the
editorial says the public seems to follow. On the night that the OJ
Simpson Bronco chase was aired the media started to speculate that he was
guilty of the Ron Goldman/Nicole Brown murders. Instantly the United
States, Canada and anywhere else that CNN airs was divided on whether
this American football hero committed this hideous crime. Though the
entire story was not known, that did not stop the circulation of rumors,
accusations and opinions that influenced almost the entire world.
First impressions have been around since the beginning of time. Even
when Adam met Eve he had some sort of view of the women with whom he
would share the earth with. It is a subconscious act that cannot be
controlled, but easily influenced. For as long as humans are
opinionated, there will always be the danger of the first impression.