We know that you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. And these days, more and more often it’s going to be your social media profile picture that serves as your first impression.

And it turns out that it’s vital to show an attractive smile in that picture because the judgments people make about you from that picture can be hard to overcome. That’s according to new research by Cornell psychology professor Vivian Zayas.

Rating a Picture, Meeting a Person

For the first stage in this study, 55 women were asked to rate pictures of four women. They were asked to decide whether they thought they could be friends with the women, based solely on the photograph. Two photos were used of each woman, one smiling, and one with a more neutral expression. In addition to the overall rating, they were asked whether the women in the picture were agreeable, emotionally stable, extraverted, conscientious, or open to new experiences.

It's important to smile in your profile picture!

Then the subjects were asked to return for an apparently unrelated experiment. At this second session, they met one of the women they had previously seen only in a picture. They spent 20 minutes together, played a brief trivia game, and were instructed to try to get to know as much about one another as possible.

Most believed they hadn’t seen the woman they met before. Only four remembered seeing her in a picture, and these weren’t used in the analysis. After interacting in person, the subjects were asked to rate the person they’d met. Remarkably, their ratings corresponded highly with the ratings they had originally given the photograph. Those that had a positive impression of her before meeting her had a positive experience during the meeting, while those who had negative impressions had a negative experience.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

Zayas explains that our first impressions actually rule the way we interact with people. It’s not something we choose to do, it’s an automatic response. If we get a positive impression, we’re more likely to smile at a person, more likely to speak kindly, and more likely to give warm social signals.

For this experiment, the women who were rated had no idea how they’d been rated. So they didn’t have any preconceived notions about how to respond to the raters. Instead, it was all the cues given by the raters, which were partly related to the picture they’d seen before.

Give the Best First Impression

This situation is analogous to a job interview. A person may have only briefly seen your profile picture before they meet you for a short interview. The impression made by your picture before the interview can then be of paramount importance in the impression that an interviewer leaves with. That’s why it’s vital to take care when selecting a social profile picture.

And what is it that is likely to make the most difference? Your smile. Whether for social or professional meetings, people remember your smile most. They respond positively to an attractive, happy smile. So if you are looking to make the best impression, cosmetic dentistry can be invaluable.

To learn more about the benefits of cosmetic dentistry for your first impressions and second meetings, please call (229) 242-5511 today for an appointment with Valdosta, GA cosmetic dentist Dr. Nelson Clements.