Friday, 10 June 2011

Image and first impressions

“The Importance of Image”

Looking good is important to people throughout the world, and particularly in North America.  According to a recent Gallup poll, 7 out of 10 Americans said physical appearance is important ‘in terms of happiness, social life and the ability to get ahead.”

And it’s not just important for the young.  Parade magazine published the results of a national survey of men and women aged 18 to 75 that found 84 percent disagreed with the statement, “When you become old, looks no are longer important.”  However, while physical appearance is a significant part of image, there is more to image than looks.

What image is”

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines image as a “mental conception of a person or organization.  In other words, image is the beliefs that we have about someone or something.  It may be the impressions we form when meeting someone new, or it may be an individual’s or company’s reputation that has devolved over time.

Our impressions about other people may be based on how they look, talk, or behave.  A person’s overall “image” may consist of a variety of factors including their clothing, grooming, hair and make-up, tone of voice, vocabulary, facial expressions, eye contact, gestures, and social behaviours (also known as etiquette).

Why Image Matters

Image matters because people often make assumptions based on limited information.  In the book Social Psychology, H. Andrew Michener, John D. DeLamater, and Daniel J. Myers explain that when we observe a single physical characteristic or behaviour in someone, we tend to assume that person has a number of other qualities, too.  For example, someone may be perceived as confident because they have a firm handshake.  

They may be seen as trustworthy because they make eye contact.  They may be judged as capable, professional, successful – even wealthy or intelligent – because they are well dressed.  The reverse is also true.

Personal Image in Business”

According to Brian Tracey, author of the bestselling The Psychology of Achievement, “many capable men and women are disqualified from job opportunities because they simply do not look the part.”  Caroline Dunn and Lucette Charette of the National Research Council of Canada found that “People are affected by you appearance whether or not they realize it, and whether or not they think appearance is important. “  Dunn and Charette summarized the research in this area and found that a first impression has significant, measurable effects on the observer.

Image in Personal Relationships”

Image has an impact on people’s private lives as well.  You probably know from personal experience how much more respect you receive from store clerks when you are well dressed.
Beyond how we are treated by strangers or service staff, our image can have a significant impact on our happiness by affecting the development of friendships and romantic relationships.  Children learn that looking or acting “different” often results in teasing and bullying.  Adults experience similarly painful consequences. 

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