A few years ago, researchers at New York University examined the neuroscience of how people form impressions of others. While their brains were being scanned, subjects were shown a photograph of a face and read six sentences about that person.
Afterwards, the subject was asked for their overall impressions of each profile.
Two parts of the brain were involved, the posterior cingular cortex and amygdala. Together they help us compute first impressions of others. These regions sort information on the basis of its personal and subjective importance and summarise it into an ultimate score, a first impression.
In forming those first impressions, we automatically process relevant information about somebody, based on how important they are to our own motivations. Our split-second reactions to other people are assessments of their value to us.
Put simply, meeting people activates the same region of the brain responsible for assigning prices to objects. After we’ve assigned a value to a person, we make the decision about how to orient ourselves to that person: do we want to get closer? Knowing what this person’s value is to us, do we want this person to be involved in our network?
Based on this study, one of the best ways to take advantage of a first impression is to give people a reason to trust and value you. Everything people see and experience of you in seconds goes towards their thought triggers. Your appearance, facial expressions, body language and choice of words are all part of the decision-making process.