A judgment is defined as a decision or opinion you have formed about someone or something after thinking carefully. A snap judgment, on the other hand, is the contrary. It’s an almost irreversible opinion we make about people within just three seconds. That's scary stuff. The only drivers that can reasonably form an opinion, in such a short space of time, are our cognitive biases. A whole host of tiny assumptions, developed through our life experiences and expectations. The most worrying thing about cognitive biases, apart from the fact that they exclude rational consideration, is that we are typically unaware when we rely on them.
The impact of a snap judgment
Snap judgments don’t only impede our perception of the world but they can greatly limit our chances when we focus on 1:1 first impressions. Snap judgments are a form of positional thinking — right/wrong, good/bad, desirable/undesirable. So, if you think about it this way, you can spend hours prepping for the job interview of your dreams but the recruiters will have already decided by the time you sit down and introduce yourself whether they like you or not. This may impact their final decision if, for example, they need to choose between two equally good candidates.
How to get around the snap judgment
The only way to maximize your success in first impression scenarios is to understand the well-researched, scientifically supported conclusions people tend to draw from appearances/ behavior. It’s important to remember that these are not inevitable conclusions any given person will draw.
|Appearance/Behavior||Likely First Impression|
|Physical beauty||Healthy/ strong|
|More eye contact||Intelligent/ confident|
|Speaking faster||More competent|
|Smooth, effortless charm||More adventurous, extroverted, trustworthy|
|“Baby face” (rounded, large eyes, small nose and chin)||More trustworthy, naive|
|Straight posture||More competent, focused|
Whilst we can hope to achieve our goals through merit alone, the research shows that first impressions really matter. The only way to thrive is to be fully self-aware of the impression you make on others.