The Secret to a Great First Impression

3 years ago


Many people are dating online. This means people are actually meeting on their first date. Often this is a brief date to see if there is an attraction. Scientists have found there are a few things that you can do to make the best first impression.


In 2008, Lawrence Williams at Yale University conducted a unique experiment. Williams set out to discover if temperature had an effect on perception. Williams believes that it’s no coincidence that we use the same word – warmth – to describe both a physical and an emotional experience. “Somewhere in the brain, those two sensations are linked,” he says. “Think of a baby held in it mother arms. The child is experiencing love, affection and comfort. But you also have, at the same time, an experience with a warm object, in this case a warm human being.”[1]

To test his theory, Williams had the participants of the study greeted by a host prior to getting on an elevator. The host held a cup of coffee, a clipboard, and two textbooks. Not realizing they had started the study, during the elevator ride the host would ask the participants to hold either her hot cup of coffee or iced coffee as she jotted down some notes. After she wrote down the information, she took back the coffee.

            The participants were then directed to the experimental room where each read a story about a hypothetical person. The participants were then asked to rate the person on ten personality traits. The experiment found that people who held the hot cup of coffee perceived the hypothetical person as warmer, more social, happier, generous, and better natured than those who had held the cup of iced coffee. In contrast, the participants that held something cold, perceived the hypothetical person as cold, stoic and unaffectionate. [2] 


            In a difference study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers investigated if your chair could effect your perception. Eight-six participants were asked to sit in either a hard wooden chair or a soft cushioned chair while completing an impression formation task, where they were asked to judge an employee. The study found that chair hardness had an effect on this judgment. Participants sitting in the hard chairs had perceptions of strictness, rigidity, and stability, while participants in the soft sofa had a more positive overall impression.[3]

            Therefore, if you find yourself on a “first time meeting” date, may I suggest picking a place with hot coffee and cozy couches, so you will be perceived as warm, happy, and maybe even a bit of a softie.



[1] Charles, Dan. October 25, 2008. All Things Considered. NPR radio.

[2] Williams, Lawrence at al. Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth Science 24 October 2008: Vol 322 no. 5901 pp. 606-607.

[3] Ackerman, Joshua et al. Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgements and Decisions. Science 25 June 2010 Vol. 328 no. 5986 pp. 1712-1715.

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