Do you feel confident in the way you express yourself to the world? Be it in your personality, style of dress, or general outlook, do you think it accurately represents you to your core? Or is it more superficial than that? Maybe you're alright with a bit of distance, figuring that not every stranger you come across needs to know your life story just from one conversation.
A recent study looked into the world of first impressions and our ability to read new people, putting hundreds of people to the test to see how accurate they were. The results not only revealed how good we are at it, but what elements made us better or worse.
First Impressions Are Everything
Are you someone who's good at reading people? When meeting someone new, can you get a read on them immediately? Get a general sense of what makes them tick, how they treat people, and their motivations? It's a real skill that can be developed with years and years of practice, though having a naturally strong sense of intuition certainly helps.
Not all people are read equally, though, as some personality types can be read much easier than others, meaning tons of people out there have no idea how much of an open book they are.
Where And Why?
Context also matters when it comes to getting a read on new people. Is this a workplace environment, a social gathering, a date? Are you alone or are you with friends? What's the vibe; are things sort of stressful or is it meant to be fun?
All of these factors and more can have a huge impact on the ease and accuracy with which we read people. This and the personality type fact were both revealed by a 2020 study that looked into the accuracy of first impressions.
The study used a speed dating format and involved 372 participants. Two people would be randomly matched, then they'd spend a few minutes chatting and getting to know each other before moving to the next new person.
After each new partner, participants were asked to rate the personalities of the person they had just met. After all this data was collected, the first impressions were studied and compared to self-reports performed earlier by each participant in which they described their own personality type.
What Were The Results?
When it comes to the personality type that was the easiest to read, it turns out those who are generally happy and confident fit the bill.
"Some people are open books whose distinctive personalities can be accurately perceived after a brief interaction, whereas others are harder to read," wrote Ms. Lauren Gazzard Kerr, the study's first author, "Strikingly, people who report higher well-being, self-esteem, and satisfaction with life tend to make the task easier."
The Ease Of Honesty
There are a few reasons this could be. Some theorized that those in more positive headspaces are more likely to present their true personalities over those who feel they have something to hide, or those who aren't feeling too well but want to keep the mood up.
As Dr. Lauren Human, co-author of the study, put it, "Perhaps people that have greater well-being behave in ways that are more in line with their personality—being more authentic or true to themselves."
Hand In Hand
In turn, it could also be that people become happier when their personalities are read correctly and people understand them easier. There's potential for it to be a cyclical interaction, but luckily it's one that only feeds positivity.
This all being said, those who reported lower wellbeing before going into the event weren't hard to read either. It turns out people are generally pretty accurate when it comes to first impressions, it's just that more outwardly optimistic folk make it much easier.
What About Location?
The study also revealed that, while we humans are pretty good at reading new people, some situations up the stakes a little bit and make us slip in our accuracy.
Namely romantic situations. Turns out we're far worse at judging the personalities of new potential partners over strangers where there was no romantic inkling at all. This is likely due to nerves causing some mental blockage and messing with our intuition.
The Next Step
Now that we know who is easier to read, it's time to look into why they're easier to read and what that means for the rest of us. The team behind this study thinks it could have a significant impact on how we perceive social interaction to know what it is about some of us that lead us to be so transparent.
As Dr. Human wrote, "Understanding why some people are able to be seen more accurately could help us determine strategies that other people could apply to enhance how accurately they are perceived."
No matter what area of the vast personality spectrum you find yourself on, this study's results are not only interesting, but helpful. If you're a very openly positive person who's been wanting to gain an air of mystery, you now know how. If you're someone less positive who finds themselves distant from new people, this may be why.
Humans are malleable creatures, more so than they might originally think. Though you shouldn't have to change for anyone, especially if it'll make you unhappy, there's also freedom in knowing you can become a new person any moment you so choose.