SNAP JUDGEMENTS: WHY FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT

The human brain uses two very different strategies to make sense of situations. One is the conscious strategy. This strategy is logical and definitive, and it is familiar. But it is also slow and often requires a lot of information.
The second strategy is quicker. The brain reaches conclusions without immediately telling us that it is reaching conclusions. You may call it the intuitive strategy.

The part of the brain that supports the second strategy is called the adaptive unconscious. Think of it as a kind of giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings.

Whenever we meet someone for the first time, whenever we react to a new idea, whenever we are faced with making a decision quickly and under stress, we almost always apply the second strategy.

Perhaps the most common- and the most important forms of rapid cognition are the judgements we make and the impressions we form of other people. Think of how you react when someone says to you, “I love you”. I imagine you looking into their eyes trying to judge their sincerity.

It is commonly believed that all important decisions must be analytically considered and thought through before a choice is made or an opinion is formed. However, I make bold to say that, sometimes introspections can mess up our reactions. The attempt to come up with a plausible-sounding reason for why we might like or dislike something often distorts our true preference.

If we get too caught up in the production of information, we may drown in the data. And often we realise that our certainty about our decisions become entirely out of proportion to the actual correctness of those decisions.

When we talk about analytic versus intuitive decision making, neither is good nor bad. What is bad is if you use either of them in an inappropriate circumstance. Our ability to solve problems is tied to our capacity to identify what circumstance requires either strategy.

Essentially, life requires us to make many snap decisions and judgements. It is therefore necessary for us to learn to make such decisions, and be good at it. Experience helps us become experts at using our behaviour and training to interpret and decode what lies behind our snap judgements and first impressions. Knowledge gives first impression resiliency.

There is a need to devise a way to structure our first impressions, create adequate vocabulary to capture them, and have the experience to understand them.

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