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First Impression Formation Of Appearance And Behaviour

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Impression is a long-lasting image of a person created in our minds which can last long for years. There are lot of research done by Soloman Asch (1946), Bruner & Taiguri (1954), Rosenberg, Nelson & Vivekanathan (1968) to understand Impression Formation.

According to Soloman Asch (1946) at a glance of any person an impression of his personality can instantly form. Even by looking or talking with that person a whole story about his entire character can be told. These impressions can be formed quickly and easily which can enhance or distress our opinion on a person (Bartleby research, 2017).

This essay may explain you how do impressions form and the causes of their behavior on viewing people. Some of the day to day examples have been mentioned below along with the strengths and limitations also provided.

How do people form impressions on others and the causes of their behavior?

“Social Perception is defined as the mental processes through which people interpret information about others, draw inferences about them, and develop mental representations of them (Bernstein, 2006).” In the context of social anxiety, perceiving others as judgmental, critical can lead to lack of self-disclosure (Eva Gilboa-Schechtman, 2014)

It is part of human nature that we tend to form impressions of people, things, and objects. We tend to classify people as good, bad, strong, weak, helpful, unhelpful and in fact into so many other categories. People form impression on certain things and objects, example known as ‘brand loyalty.’ People buy products like soap, fragrance in superior and good brands than others using (D).

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People are very skilled at person perception- the process of learning about other people- and our brains are designed to help us judge others efficiently. It is not surprising that you had these emotions- these initial affective reactions are an essential and highly adaptive part of person perception. One of the things that we need to determine when we first perceive someone is whether that person poses any threat to our well-being. We may dislike or experience negative emotions about people because we feel that they are likely to harm us, just as we may like and feel positively about them if we feel that they can help us (Tarry, n.d.).

When forming first impressions, people typically have to rely on limited and potentially misleading information about others (Okten, 2018). The perception of others is governed by the laws of perception of objects, which is that information is interpreted using schemas. Individuals develop self-schemas through the formation of a social identity and comparison. These are mental representation of their beliefs and views about themselves. Schemas have a significant influence in perception, they determine what information is attended to or ignored and what information is remembered. As a result, we tent to process information about a person more quickly if it confirms our beliefs. The findings of several studies indicate that individuals focus on information concerning the traits of others (Essays,UK, 2018).

Person perception can be very subjective process that can be impacted by a number of variables. Factors that can influence the impressions you form of other people include the characteristics of the person you are observing, the context of the situation, your own personal traits and your past experiences. People often form impressions of others very quickly with only minimal information. We frequently base our impressions on the roles and social norms we expect from people. For example, you might form an impression of a city bus driver based on how you would anticipate that a person in that role to behave, considering individual personality characteristics only after you have formed this initial impression. Physical cues can also play an important role. If you see a woman dressed in a professional looking suit, you might immediately assume that she works in a formal setting, perhaps at a law firm or bank. The salience of the information we perceive is important. Generally, we tend to focus on the most obvious points rather than noting background information. The more novel or obvious a factor is, the more likely we are to focus on it. If you see a woman dressed in a tailored suit and her hair styled in a bright pink mohawk, you are likely to pay more attention to her unusual hairstyle than her sensible business attire.

One of the mental shortcuts that we use in person perception is known as ‘social categorization’. In this process, we mentally categorize people into different groups based on common characteristics. Sometimes this process occurs consciously, but for the most part, social categorizations happen automatically and unconsciously. Some of the most common grouping people use include age, gender, occupation and race. As with mental shortcuts, social categorization has both positive and negative aspects (Cherry, 2019).

Persuasion can be enhanced by messages that arouse strong emotions in the audience. Particularly when the message provides specific recommendations about how a change in attitudes or behavior will prevent the negative consequences described in the fill provoking message (Leventhal, 1965).

There have been different studies that shows that skills of impression management work effectively. It even helps in creating optimistic first impression of a person but it also cannot be true always. For example, it’s not always necessary that good first impression of a student (intelligent) on the first day of school would be same, it can vary or change according to his performance in the class. The question is why there is always different character in a person. And even when they have same character what make them different from each other. According to Soloman Asch (1946) every individual has different characteristics. For example, a person can have different characteristics like he/she is intelligent, energetic, have great sense of humor, is very fast in his work, courageous, punctual and humble with his fellows. This can create an impression of that person in our mind. A combination of a person character makes an impression of him/her on others (Bartleby research, 2017)

Examples of Impression Formation in Day-To-Day Life

  • “You’re at a party. You see a guy walking into the room. You scan him from top to bottom. You take in his appearance- tattooed arms, pierced eyebrow, colored hair. He comes and stand next to you- you think he smells of smoke. You immediately tag him as being someone who enjoys partying, smokes up a lot, has no regard for authority, and is really careless at his job. This is the tendency of the human mind to form impressions about others based on our expectations, on certain events from the past and our learned behavior, that is why so much stress has been laid on the power of the first impression.
  • According to Sri Lanka, it’s so impressive and shocking to see a young woman driving a long heavy truck carrying load. Because of the Sri Lankan culture, girls do not want to become a half masculine which is different from western cultures where girls do men’s work too.
  • People who speak rapidly are more persuasive than person who speak more slowly (Miller et al, 1976) , this causes an attraction on the audience/people toward listening. E.g.: - politicians & sales person. Most abundant people are more engaged to attend MP Sajith Premadasa’s meeting.
  • In my lifetime for the first time I’ve experienced seeing the coastal affected areas in SL due to tsunami. It’s so stunning to view the affected areas and people with no homes, no foods, suffering and struggling with starvation and in want of medicines too. I felt really indisposed to see the victims in reality.

Strengths and Limitations of Impression Formation


  • Social Categorization allows people to make judgements very quickly.
  • We move very quickly from observable information to personality trait inferences. Trait are more economical to remember. Trait inferences occur automatically.
  • Immoral, hostile (social likeability) behavior are more informative than moral, friendly behavior.
  • First impression formation is more selective among people.


  • The problem with social categorization technique includes the fact that it can lead to errors and as well as stereotyping or even prejudice.
  • You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • First impression formations, on people in a social environment, are not always true and accurate.
  • Forming impressions on people, some types of information carry more weight than others, widely documented negative effect implies that unfavorable information has more impact on impressions than favorable information.


  1. (2017, November 8). Retrieved from Bartleby research:
  2. (2018, November). Retrieved from Essays,UK: central traits-descriptive-categories-psychology-essay.php?vref=1
  3. Bernstein, P. C. (2006). Psychology book.
  4. Cherry, K. (2019, October 10). Retrieved from
  5. D, S. (n.d.). Psychology Discussion.
  6. Eva Gilboa-Schechtman, .. H. (2014). Retrieved from
  7. Leventhal, S. &. (1965). Psychology Book.
  8. Miller et al. (1976). General Psychology.
  9. Okten, I. O. (2018, January 31). Retrieved from Association for Psychological Science:
  10. Tarry, D. R. (n.d.). Initial Impression Formation. Retrieved from
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First Impression Formation Of Appearance And Behaviour. (2021, August 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 24, 2024, from
“First Impression Formation Of Appearance And Behaviour.” Edubirdie, 18 Aug. 2021,
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