Saturday, 18 April 2009

First Impressions

If you know me, you will most probably agree with the fact that the opinion you generate from the first impression I give you, is never the same opinion you will hold a year later. People tend to see me as very loud, confident and a little overwhelming but when you get to know me you find out I’m not always loud and am incredibly emotional. I work hard and am not the ‘party animal’ people think I will be, and I am loyal, which, for some reason, people don’t generally think I will be. According to Cooke (1973), people make an opinion about someone within 7 seconds of seeing them. It depends on clothes, hair colour, body shape, posture and the way in which one walks. This is all before someone has even spoken. We can all claim to be non –judgemental, but it’s a psychological fact that we, as human beings are. Why? Well Cooke discusses the Neanderthal man and how he would suss out enemy groups by the fur and clothes they wore, if they are plump (and therefore well fed and healthy) and the stride of his walk, with or without confidence. It’s incredible that it can be so relevant today.
The other reason behind the pre judgemental inclination of human beings is that of sniffing out a mate. Men look for women with large, ‘child bearing hips’ and breasts that are capable of carrying milk and supporting life and women look for fit, large men that can protect them and their offspring and support them with food and shelter. This is still quite relevant but with he changing society we live in, men are saturated with images of women that are thin

and considered beautiful so it is now more socially acceptable to date a thin woman than it would have been in say the forties. And women are also saturated with images of people like David Beckham who is considered to be sexy but is quite petit. So, where Cooke discusses an important first impression is weight, he talks of how men are attracted to larger women and when one is larger it is supposed to look like grandeur and wealth, this has seemingly flipped sides. There is now an epidemic of ‘fattism’ where people pre judge a ‘fat’ person so greatly, they dislike them immediately. This of course is terrible. After having taken the personality deciphering tests online, the fattism result discussed how 75% of the general public dislike overweight people!

A perfect example of misconstrued judgemental folks is that of Susan Boyle. If you don’t know of her, you will soon, I’m sure. Look at this video.

The woman suffers from a mild physical disability and so therefore society adjudicates her before she even sings. She is older looking and rather eccentric and therefore people look her as you can see in the video, as a waste of space. Simon Cowell, on top form as usual, is incredibly rude to her with his comments dripping in sarcasm. When she starts to sing, every single person in the place drops their jaw. It is a lesson for everyone; you truly cannot judge a book by its cover.

In the class, Maria came in without saying a word, she stood there in her colour coordinated, fashionable but conservative outfit and everybody’s initial reaction was that she was upper middle class, rich, and posh! When I wrote down what I thought of her, her upbringing and lifestyle she was used to (bear in mind this was from one look at a stranger!), I decided she was from somewhere like Kensington, rich family, private schooling and very quiet. Dear lord was I wrong! Maria is actually from Poland and is not what I thought she was at all! She’s very studious and quiet yes, but not the toffee nosed ‘ra’ girl I thought initially.

Another two brief examples of incorrect first impressions. Firstly, my first time in the university library. I walked into the toilets where a young girl, with a hijab (Arabic headdress) on. She was talking to a girl in a cubicle in Arabic. When I entered she said in Arabic something very racist and very insulting about English girls and how one of those w*ores had come in. I waited a moment and asked her, in Arabic, why she was studying in England if she didn’t like the English. I thought she was going to drop dead. And now she has to face me every day! Shame! Secondly, yesterday, I was in a takeaway restaurant (in Abu Dhabi), with my boyfriend Billy, where there was two women covered from head to toe in the black Arabic gear. Billy started questioning me about their outfits and then one of them turned around with a thick Tennessee accent and asked if we were English! Well I thought he was going to faint!! She was a converted Muslim who had married an Arab man and was now covered completely in black. It taught me a lesson, never talk about someone thinking they can’t understand you because the one time you’re saying something nasty, Murphy’s Law, they probably will speak better English than you!!

Thomas (2000) builds on Cooke’s (1973) theories. He theorises that 95% of all first impressions change within a month of knowing a person. This is why, he states, people feel such pressure in job interviews.

I suppose the experiences we have of absolute shock; humiliation and amazement where we are wrong teach us a valuable lesson. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Keep an open mind, as you might have a very nasty blow one day, you never know, it may even be a pleasant surprise.

1 comment:

Ruth Hickmott said...

Excellent - really interesting to read and a great idea to include the Susan Boyle clip