The first few seconds of an encounter are the critical moments when the subconscious examines and assesses this new acquaintance and an impression of them is formed that will remain indefinitely. The human mind forms impressions quickly and, often with no more evidence that what it thinks it perceives. Physical attractiveness is a powerful influence in the perception of others, and thanks to the influence of the ancient Greeks, beauty is associated with good and ugliness with evil.
Strangely, in today’s society, it is often perceived that the more attractive a man is the higher his intelligence, while the less attractive a woman is seems to earmark intelligence in her. The activity a person is engaged in is also another powerful influence in the evaluation of them. Someone who is reading is perceived as smart; someone engaged in a sport activity more likely to be perceived as lower in intelligence. Someone who is listening to classical music will be perceived as having more social graces than someone listening to country/western music.
Stereotypes play a significant role in daily life; originally it was the basic instinct that let primitive man assess whether another was an enemy or foe and were a part of the natural selection process of mating. For example, women with wide hips and large breasts were seen as desirable because they have the traits that are related with the ability to produce and care for children. Unfortunately stereotypes usually have a more negative aspect. Often potential friends or mates are rejected simply because they have traits that are reminiscent of an unpleasant individual from the past.
Another negative aspect is that through movies and television, physical qualities are often linked with certain behavioral traits over and over, thus imprinting a stereotype without the actual experience occurring. This can lead to fear and prejudice against certain races, religion or any other trait. Thus, stereotyping serves both in a good and a bad capacity. Appearances- physical or otherwise – are all that is available for the mind to evaluate the reaction necessary to a stranger’s overture. The emphasis that is made by employment counselors on the need for a good first impression is no myth.