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436: Important Impression

A Thousand Things to Talk About
436: Important Impression
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What’s your first memory of meeting someone important in your life?

Full episode script

“I’m really terrible at remembering when it is I met someone,” responds one listener about this question. “I did remember the moment they become important to me, but that is rarely the first meeting.”

We’ve talked a lot about memory on this podcast – at least six times in the last ten weeks, according to my database. So I’m not going to rehash how our memories of people that we meet may be formed, rehashed, and altered on the basis of our emotional reactions.

What I do find particularly important, though, is how those first impressions are initially formed, because without that first impression there would be nothing to be remembered, confirmed, or disproven.

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, in talking to Wired magazine about her impression research, disavows the idea that a first impression to form that memory is just universally good or bad. Quote:

When we form a first impression of another person it’s not really a single impression. We’re really forming two. We’re judging how warm and trustworthy the person is, and that’s trying to answer the question, “What are this person’s intentions toward me?” And we’re also asking ourselves, “How strong and competent is this person?” That’s really about whether or not they’re capable of enacting their intentions. Research shows that these two trait dimensions account for 80 to 90 percent of an overall first impression, and that holds true across cultures.

Through research we found that it really comes down to two traits: trustworthiness and competence. People universally sort groups in a two by two matrix. And what you end up getting is that most groups are seen as high on one trait and low on the other. You don’t actually have many groups that are both not trusted and not respected, or that are both loved and respected.

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.