According to a study by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, we form an opinion about someone within the first one-tenth of a second of seeing them. As brutal as this sounds, it’s even more terrifying to realize we have the same amount of time to make a positive impression on those we meet. The study also showed that the first impression did not change when participants had longer periods of time to view someone for the first time.
Although this may be the process our brains are growing accustomed to, we have the power to override the numbers.
Awareness brings change.
I have missed opportunities to know potentially incredible people because I let my intentionality stop at my first impression.
I have judged people based on their looks, their habits, even things I had heard from others. I have judged people on false understandings and unfair assumptions, and for that I am ashamed.
I have a feeling I’m not alone.
I hope I’m not the only one who realizes the atrocity occurring in our society if we continue in this mindset.
As a general and special education major, I am daily reminded not to jump to conclusions. Children see the world free of the stigmas adults are perpetually blinded by. They don’t label people as beautiful, ugly, fat, skinny, gay, straight, good or bad, that is, until we teach them to. They see their peers as potential friends.
Children also hold worlds behind their eyes. Working in special education, I have had the chance to know children that are too often misunderstood. These students may not naturally make the best first impression, especially if given only one-tenth of a second to do so. Yet when the time is spent to cultivate a relationship with them, words can’t describe the compassion, ideas and wisdom they harbor. Adults are no different.
After the recommendation by a good friend, I recently read “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The story is a powerful reminder that we lose the eyes of a child as we age, but if we are aware of this loss, we have the potential to counteract it. The lessons it holds are worth the hour it will take you to read it.
If nothing else, remember the Little Prince’s words, “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Grace Green is a senior elementary and special education major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column reflects the views of the writer only.