Career consultants say that a person can determine if they like you or want to do business with you within three seconds of meeting you. That doesn’t give you a lot of time to refine your pitch on the fly, but you can study and learn the things people will judge you on to pass yourself off instantly as someone people like.
Princeton researchers conducted a study of students, allowing some only a tenth of a second to rate the trustworthiness (among other things) of a person’s face. Another group was given all the time they wanted/needed. The results among the two groups were similar enough to lead the researchers to believe that a person’s mind is made up almost instantly in this regard.
A study out of The Netherlands among 80 shoppers found that wearing designer clothes was enough to lead a party to the conclusion that the wearer of such clothes was wealthy or of otherwise high-status (Not a huge surprise, as that’s what branded designer clothes are largely purchased to do). No other uniform conclusions were drawn about the person wearing their clothes, but that might be enough of a result to inform your appearance in meeting a new person.
A 2008 study found that in a twentieth of a second, a person was able to judge, based solely on a picture, the sexual orientation of men correctly 57% of the time. Given the sample size, 50% would be attributed to pure chance, meaning that appearance gives some (though not necessarily a large) amount of guidance in coming to a correct conclusion. The study’s authors wrote, “The rapid and accurate perception of male sexual orientation may be just another symptom of a fast and efficient cognitive mechanism for perceiving the characteristics of others.”
A study at Loyola Marymount in 2007 found that 182 students speaking to each other on a topic for five minutes found that eye contact and holding their conversation partner’s gaze led them to think that the person speaking was more intelligent than if they didn’t. And as cliche as it might seem, wearing glasses probably doesn’t hurt, either.
At the University of Pennsylvania, a group of students looked at 25 pictures of men, some with shaved heads, and some with full heads of hair. The men with shaved heads were widely regarded as more dominant than those with hair. Further studies supported this finding. Interestingly enough, it was shaved heads, not bald heads that led to this conclusion, so if your hair is thinning, consider taking the clippers to it if you want to appear a little more alpha. (Women, too, I suppose. )
A study conducted by a hybrid Turkish and British group of academics found that wearing a tailored suit gives the appearance of success more so than an off-the-rack suit that hasn’t been altered. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but it bears repeating for those that are trying to project an image of success, clothes that fit your body well help achieve that. From the study, “On the evidence of this study it appears men may be advised to purchase clothing that is well‐tailored, as it can positively enhance the image they communicate to others.”
That word conveys just what you would think it does. Given two pictures of the same (male) model, one in business clothes and one in casual attire, the respondents in this study said that the one in business attire looked as though he would be on track to make more money and get promoted sooner. So that phrase, “Look the part,” certainly carries weight in this instance.
Judging the way a person walks, respondents to a small study found that a person with a looser, more fluid gait was more likely to be both adventurous and extroverted than a person with a tight, clipped stride. It turns out that this assumption was wrong by and large in the study, but that doesn’t change the fact that the subjects felt that way about the walkers without knowing the truth.
An experiment in Canada asked female subjects to stare at pictures of 37 different men for 39 milliseconds. Female subjects found men with wider faces to be more aggressive. While this may seem odd, conventionally angry expressions such as lowering the brow and raising the upper lip appear more often on men with naturally wider faces.
A study at Berkeley showed that 123 undergrads were able to accurately assess people’s religiousness (but not their religion). Those who appeared to be smiling, energetic, and relaxed were deemed religious, and the subjects were normally right about their assertion. Of course, even if people’s judgment of your religiousness doesn’t concern you, it’s never a bad idea to appear relaxed, smiling, and energetic in most any run-in with a new acquaintance.
This study, done by a German team, is straightforward enough. People looked at hundreds of faces and largely considered the people smiling in the pictures to be more extroverted. The authors wrote, “Many people attempt to express positive emotions by smiling, particularly when being photographed, but introverts seem to do so less frequently, less skillfully, and in more reserved ways than extraverts.”
Undergrads were asked to assess headshots of 100 managing partners at law firms to rate the pictured person’s dominance, maturity, likability, and trustworthiness. The dominance and maturity rankings were combined to create a “power” score, and those who scored highest in that metric were, indeed, the leaders of more successful law firms than those who scored low. The same findings actually held true when participants were even looking at the managing partners’ high school yearbook photos, too.
The University of Liverpool found that participants in their study were able to accurately assess people’s conscientiousness just by glancing at their photos. Based on the responses of the people featured in the pictures, the participants were pretty spot-on. And when the researchers took those findings to create composite images among the people who scored high and people who scored low. The participants were even able to identify which face belonged to which trait, suggesting that the conclusions were more than just a fluke.