Forget Appearance—This Is What People Judge Within 2 Seconds of Meeting You

Kelsey Clark
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Christian Vierig/Getty Images

First impressions can say a lot—in fact, Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy has devoted her entire career to studying them. But aside from what we know about interpreting body language and eye contact, it turns out people make a few other snap judgments when meeting someone for the first time.

In her new book, Presence, Cuddy writes that people ask themselves two questions when they first meet a new person: Can I trust this person? and Can I respect this person? In doing so, psychologists believe people are trying to assess both warmth and competence, the former of which is actually more important in a professional setting. "From an evolutionary perspective," Cuddy says, "[Warmth] is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust." In fact, competence is only evaluated once someone earns your trust. 

"If someone you're trying to influence doesn't trust you, you're not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative," she said to Business Insider. "A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you've established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat."

For more, read up on the six science-backed ways to make a good impression.

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