Psychologists call it “thin slicing.”
Within moments of meeting you, people decide all sorts of things about you, from status to intelligence to conscientiousness.
Career experts say it takes just three seconds for someone to determine whether they like you and want to do business with you.
Fortunately, you have some control over the way others see you. For example, wearing tailored clothes and looking your conversation partner in the eye will generally create a more positive impression. But as for how aggressive you seem? That’s largely determined by your facial structure.
Here, we’ve rounded up 13 assumptions people make about you — sometimes accurate and sometimes less so — based on first impressions. Read on to find out what signals you might be giving off.
If you’re trustworthy
People may decide on your trustworthiness in as little as a tenth of a second.
Princeton researchers found this out by giving one group of 245 university students 100 milliseconds to rate the attractiveness, competence, likability, aggressiveness, and trustworthiness of actors’ faces.
One hundred and twenty-eight members of another group were able to take as long as they wanted. Results showed that ratings of trustworthiness were highly similar between the two groups — even more similar than ratings of attractiveness — suggesting that we figure out almost instantaneously if we can trust someone.
If you’re high-status
A small Dutch study found that people wearing name-brand clothes — Lacoste and Tommy Hilfiger, to be precise — were seen as higher status and wealthier than folks wearing nondesigner clothes when they approached 80 shoppers in a mall.
“Perceptions did not differ on any of the other dimensions that might affect the outcome of social interactions,” the authors wrote. “There were no differences in perceived attractiveness, kindness, and trustworthiness.”
Just status and wealth.
If you’re straight or gay
A small 2008 study of male and female undergrads given photos of 90 men’s faces — half of the men were straight and half were gay — found that on average, the participants accurately judged the photographed man’s sexual orientation in a twentieth of a second about 57% of the time, 7% better than pure chance.
“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,” wrote study authors Nicholas O. Rule and Nalini Ambady.