First Impressions and Last Impressions

I am sure we have all either received the “advice” or have heard someone say first impressions matter or leave with a bang. Considering these two ideas deal with the first and last actions a person makes, we can quickly make the connection they are related to the primacy and recency effect.As we learned earlier in the semester, the primacy effect is caused by remembering the items that come first in a list and the recency effect is remembering items that appeared last.

The first impressions are the ideas someone creates of us or anyone the meet for the first time. In a study conducted by Soloman Asch (1946) there were two groups of participants who received a list of traits of a person who they would later meet and make judgements about. The first group received this list of traits: intelligent, industrious, impulsive, critical, stubborn, envious; the second group received this list of traits: envious, stubborn, critical, impulsive, industrious, intelligent. If you noticed, these are the same list of traits just presented in a reverse order, one that being with positive traits and one that beings with negative traits. We can conclude that because the traits are the same, the judgement would be the same. However, Asch discovered that the participants who were presented the first list had a more positive first impression of the person; participants who were presented the second list, came up with more negative thoughts. In a similar study conducted by Edward Jones (1968), two groups of participants watched a video of the same women taking an intelligence test. In both videos the women answered the same number of questions correct and the same number of questions wrong. The only difference is that in the first video the questions answered correct appeared more in the beginning, influencing the participants to view the women as more intelligent compared to the video where the questions were answered wrong in the beginning.

Considering primacy effect is based off storage of our long term memory, when we meet someone for the first time, we create a schema about who they are and what we expect from them. Which is why it is important to make a good first impression because it is what sticks with a person and they are usually hard to change.

Luckily, if we do not make such a memorable first impression, then we have the opportunity to go out with a bang!

Unlike first impressions and the primacy effect, last impressions are just that, the last thing you remember about someone. Since they are the last memory we have of someone, they can be the most powerful. The last impressions will work as ‘cues’ for us to recall past interactions with that person; positive last impression, positive memory retrieval and vise versus. Like the in the first study presented for first impressions, if we are introduced to someone with a list of traits, we may end up just remembering the last trait. If negative we can totally just end up creating a negative image of a person but if positive, we may be excited to meet this person. In a study conducted by Bruin (2005) concluded that in competitions like the Eurovision Song Contest and ice skating, higher scores were given to acts that performed last. Recency correlates to short term memory, therefore in a competition with multiple contestants and where the judges can not give scores until the end, it is likely that acts who go last receive higher chances as they are the most recent.


1 thought on “First Impressions and Last Impressions

  1. ccragun

    This is an interesting article, it seems the best way to leave the best impression would be to leave both a good first and last impression. But if you mess the first one up at least you can redeem yourself

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