Your first impression can determine the nature of a new relationship. A good first impression can lead to a positive relationship. A bad one can lead to a strained relationship, or even no relationship: you don’t get a job, don’t get asked on a second date, and maybe never see the person again.

Increasingly, the first impression people form of you will happen before you ever meet them in person. They’ll look at your profile picture and form impressions about you, and, according to new research, those impressions can govern the first actual meeting, even if they don’t remember having seen you before.

Rating a Picture, Meeting a Person

Cornell psychology professor Vivian Zayas has long been interested on the way we form first impressions. For this current study, 55 women were recruited. In the first stage of the study, they rated pictures of four women. Two photos were used of each woman: one smiling and the other with a neutral expression, though raters only saw one photo of each woman. Raters were asked to say whether they felt the woman in the picture was open to new experiences, agreeable, conscientious, extroverted, and/or emotionally stable. They were also asked to decide whether they thought they could be friends with this woman.

Smiling women taking a profile picture

Later, the subjects were asked to return for a seemingly unrelated experiment. They then met with one of the women they had rated in a picture. The two women spent 20 minutes together, partly playing a trivia game, but instructed to get to know one another as much as possible.

Raters were then asked to rate the person they’d just met. Although every participant had previously rated the woman’s picture, almost all the raters thought they’d never seen the woman before. Only four remembered seeing the picture and these were excluded from the analysis. Remarkably, the ratings between the picture and the ratings for the in-person meeting had a very strong correlation: people who’d rated the picture highly enjoyed the personal meeting, and negative ratings for the picture correlated with negative personal meetings.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Zayas explains that first impressions can become self-fulfilling prophecies. When we get the impression that we like a person, we act on that impression: we speak more kindly, smile, and give other warm social signals.

When people saw the picture and formed an impression of the person, it governed how they interacted with that person, even though they didn’t consciously remember rating the picture. The women who were being rated had no idea about the raters: only the raters came into the interaction with preconceived ideas, but that was enough to make a difference.

Give the Best First Impression

Consider the potential analogues to this situation. It might be like a job interview where the interviewer looked at your picture on social media. Or a date from an online site. In these situations, your meeting in person is partly determined by the impression gained from the picture. It’s important to take care when choosing profile pictures.

And what is going to make the most difference for your profile picture? It will likely be your smile. Studies have shown that smiling profile pictures–especially those that show the teeth–are more popular and judged positively than nonsmiling pictures.

But if you’re unhappy with your smile, it can be hard to take that kind of picture. That’s where we can help. Cosmetic dentistry can give you an attractive smile that will give you confidence in pictures and in person.

To learn more about cosmetic dentistry in Rochester, NY, please call (585) 244-3337 today for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Contemporary Dentistry.