The Secret to Making a Good First Impression - According to Science

There are two elements that, according to various studies, are the keys to making a good impression and that go beyond physical attractiveness. They have to do with emotional connection. Find out about them here.
The Secret to Making a Good First Impression - According to Science
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 08 November, 2022

What’s the secret to making the shared universal idea of a good first impression? This is a shared and universal desire. It takes you an average of between nine seconds and two minutes to get an idea (rightly or wrongly) of how you think someone will be. In fact, in those few moments, you decide if the person in front of you pleases you or if they can be trusted.

As Oscar Wilde reportedly said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Indeed, it’s true that within these psychological processes, biases, judgments, and prejudices are diluted, as well as the most complex unconscious attributions. In fact, the brain has very little time to assess whether the person you’ve just met is trustworthy or not.

For this reason, it’s difficult for you to be objective in this matter. Furthermore, you’re constantly making evaluations. You do this to adjust your behavior in relation to the different stimuli that you encounter.

Science claims that first impressions are powerful and act as an initial filter for what may happen later. This might scare you. However, there’s something you’re able to do. In fact, knowing what elements, gestures, attitudes, or nuances you must take care of to create a positive effect gives you a great advantage. Let’s take a look at how to do it.

“We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.”

-Fyodor Dostoevsky-

man applying the secret to make a better impression

The secret to making a good first impression

We already mentioned that first impressions are influenced by multiple factors, such as social cognition and unconscious attitudes. However, evidence suggests that attractive people always have an advantage. Because they attract more people, this, in turn, generates greater confidence to the point of reaffirming the classic cognitive bias that what’s beautiful must be good.

You judge others and they judge you. In fact, you’re continually evaluating those around you, letting yourself be carried away by a curious cross between objectivity and subjectivity.

It’s extremely difficult for science to define all the variables that play a part in first impressions. However, one such study was conducted by the University of Missouri. In this work, the authors tried to understand the first impressions made about candidates in a job interview. However, the results weren’t as enlightening as they might’ve liked. In fact, each interviewer tended to focus on a number of different aspects.

Nevertheless, another study from 2016  indicated something rather more concrete and conclusive. In fact, according to these authors, there’s a secret to making better impressions.

Wide-open and enthusiastic eyes: the look that transmits energy

This work was carried out at the University of Saint Andrews (Scotland), the Karolinska Institute (Sweden), and the University of Stockholm (Sweden). They pointed out a fact that we already knew, that first impressions tend to be influenced by the facial attractiveness of the person concerned. However, there are facial expressions that can prove to be powerful in improving first impressions.

The first one is the opening of the eyelids. Wide-open eyes captivate and denote a series of subjective information to others.

Your brain is used to drawing quick conclusions from small details. For this reason, a wide-open and awake look leads you to think that the person in front of you is intelligent, dynamic, positive and someone you can trust. On the other hand, someone tired or sad with their eyes narrowed tends to appear dull.

The secret to making a better impression may lie in this factor for another reason as well. It’s the fact that eye contact is key to reaching the other person. If you do this with a broad, open, and interested gaze, you’ll facilitate an emotional imprint that’s difficult to forget.

Pretty woman smiling applying the secret to make a better impression

A subtle smile

Smile, but not too much. Turn your mouth up slightly but not in an exaggerated way as this suggests falseness or nervousness. That’s the key. Indeed, a smile always makes a good impression. As a matter of fact, this gesture is the most effective form of social glue and one that you should always carry with you.

In this universe, where we all make quick judgments, a smile can always help. However, research suggests it must be a subtle, relaxed, and evocative smile, and never forced.

Achieving this kind of smile might not be as easy as you may think. For this reason, it doesn’t hurt to practice it in front of the mirror so you can achieve a natural, empathetic, and friendly expression.

In conclusion, always remember that the mechanics of the first impression go way beyond a greeting or a handshake. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, you have between nine seconds and two minutes to captivate someone. Therefore, don’t hesitate to maintain an open look and a sincere smile.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ambady, N., & Rosenthal, R. (1993). Half a minute: Predicting teacher evaluations from thin slices of nonverbal behavior and physical attractiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology64, 431–441.
  • Cunningham, M. R. (1986). Measuring the physical in physical attractiveness: Quasi-experiments on the sociobiology of female facial beauty. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50(5), 925–935.
  • Dougherty, T. W., Turban, D. B., & Callender, J. C. (1994). Confirming first impressions in the employment interview: A field study of interviewer behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology79, 659–665.
  • Talamas SN, Mavor KI, Axelsson J, Sundelin T, Perrett DI. Eyelid-openness and mouth curvature influence perceived intelligence beyond attractiveness. J Exp Psychol Gen. 2016 May;145(5):603-620. doi: 10.1037/xge0000152. Epub 2016 Feb 25. PMID: 26913618.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.