Thursday, November 4, 2010

First impression

The other day, I was watching TV with my 4 year old son. The program was one of his favourite game shows. When one of the participants entered, my son asked me whether he will win. I did something I normally refrain from doing. I tried to predict whether the participant would win. I thought he would not and told my son so.

Later, I was replaying the whole experience and tried to understand what made me think whether the player would win. The answer was very simple and yet shocking. But before going to the answer, let us understand what one knew about the game. This is one of the game shows that my kids love to watch and hence I have also watched it very often.

My prediction was largely based on what I had seen of various participants – some won and some did not. One was trying to correlate certain “first impressions” with the player’s ability to win. And what does one see in less than half a minute? It is the body posture, the confidence – lack of it, enough of it or overconfidence, mannerisms, etc. – broadly a combination of body language and the appearance. And I knew the answer why I thought the participant would lose. His mannerisms exhibited arrogance and lack of seriousness. And I do not like arrogance.

This is what you call first impression. The mind judges through the first impression. It processes the immediately available information and jumps to a conclusion.

Well, what happened in case of the game show was quite harmless, but when decisions are taken with such biases, sometimes they may turn out to be very costly.