What Makes a Good First Impression? Everything

Customers form an impression based on everything they see: clothes, jewelry, office décor. A UF study found laptop stickers enough to form an accurate impression.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – People don’t think about forming a “first impression” – they just do it. Humans are apparently very skilled at taking in hundreds of small pieces to form a whole assumption about someone. And, in many cases, their assumptions are correct.

For real estate agents, that means everything counts. It’s not that any hair style, clothing choice or office décor is necessarily wrong, just that each item may be analyzed during a customer’s first-impression phase, even if that customer doesn’t know it.

A study from the University of Florida (UF) focused on personality perception research, noting that “people gauge a person’s personality based on small slices of information.” They “can glean accurate personality cues from dorm room or office decorations.”

In the UF study on college students, researchers took 140 pictures of laptops, providing they had at least three stickers. They then had those students fill out a personality questionnaire that determined a number of things, including extroversion or introversion, and whether they’re open to new experiences.

“What we found was – above chance levels – people could reliably detect the other person’s extroversion and, also, their openness to new experiences based solely on viewing their laptop stickers,” says Gregory Webster, a social psychologist at UF.

While the study can’t be expanded beyond college students and their laptops, it suggests that real estate agents trying to make a good first impression should not only focus on what they say and how they act, but also any underlying impressions a client might form from all the non-verbal clues they bring to a first meeting.

What does it say about student laptops without any stickers?

“We don’t know …” says Webster. “It may be that they want to remain a mystery.”

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