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 clich? “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.”
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.