155 Second First Impressions

Based on research by Gawronski, B., Rydell, R. J., Vervliet, B., and De Houwer, J. (2010), written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Let’s say you showed up late for the first day of a new job.  It’s likely this didn’t create a good first impression.  But are you stuck with that negative image?

Psychologists examined the truth behind the saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  Participants viewed either positive or negative information on a computer screen about someone they did not know, hence creating a first impression.  Later, they observed new inconsistent information about the same person.  In some cases, the researchers subtly changed the background color of the computer screen to examine whether the context of the information affected the participants’ impressions.  The participants’ spontaneous reactions to an image of the individual were measured.  Results indicated participants’ reactions were only influenced by the second impression when the information was displayed against the same background in which the first impression was learned.  In all other cases, participant’s reactions were still overpowered by the first impression when the individual was shown against a different background.

Change a first impression by challenging it within the same situation.  If you showed up late the first day, consistently arrive to work on time, even early, to overcome the impression you once made.


Gawronski, B., Rydell, R. J., Vervliet, B., & De Houwer, J. (2010, October 4). Generalization Versus Contextualization in Automatic Evaluation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0020315

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