Do You Make Snap Judgments?

Studies show that people judge you in less than a second

snap judgementsYou’ve heard the saying “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression” but, what you might not have realized is that it takes less than a second for people to judge you.

Not long ago, I was at an Interstate rest stop getting gas when something caught my attention.

As I sat there waiting for the fuel tank to fill I noticed a man sitting on a motorcycle. He was wearing jeans and a denim jacket. I guessed he was in his fifties. OK. As I watched a woman, who also appeared to be in her fifties walked over to him.

As they talked it was obvious that they were together partly because she was carrying two motorcycle helmets. I was rather stunned. This woman with the conservative haircut dressed in a knee-length hooded jacket and cotton slacks looked to me like she should be driving a minivan not hopping on the back of a bike.

Just goes to show how much I know.

How long do you take to form an opinion about a stranger? I admit I tend to make snap decisions. And I’m not alone.  In separate experiments, Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Tordorov, found that people form an impression of someone by looking at their face one- tenth-of-a- second which is pretty scary even to me.

Study participants were shown photographs of unfamiliar faces for  100 milliseconds (1/10 of a second), 500 milliseconds (half a second), or 1,000 milliseconds (a full second) and asked to judge them on different traits including attractiveness, likeability, competence, trustworthiness, and aggressiveness. The researchers then compared the results of the timed experiments with those of another group of participants who viewed the same photographs with no time constraints.

Willis and Tordorov found a high correlation between the judgments made after one- tenth-of-a- second to those made with no time constraint. Looking at the photos for a longer period of time didn’t seem to change participants’ initial judgment. 

People decide whether you’re likeable, trustworthy, competent, attractive or aggressive in the blink of an eye. It may not be fair. And their conclusions may be wrong. But, it does mean that your pictures on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter do make a difference in how people judge you. It’s something to think about next time you’re posting online.  

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA, CARW, CCELW, is a Certified Resume Writer, Certified LinkedIn Profile Writer, and former recruiter. Her career advice has been featured by Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Business Insider, Monster, Vault, and WSJ. She helps motivated, senior level professionals tell their unique career story. She also serves as executive editor of career-intelligence.com.

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