Can your audience form an accurate impression of you in just two seconds?
The late Nalini Ambady, a professor of psychology at Boston’s Tufts University, was fascinated by that question. To answer it, she and a colleague designed a study to test whether such “thin slices” of an impression could truly be accurate.
She filmed 13 instructors teaching their classes throughout the semester and, at the end of the term, collected student evaluations of those instructors.
Later, she edited two-second clips of those instructors and showed them—without volume—to students who weren’t enrolled in those classes. The students were asked to evaluate the instructors using several criteria, including overall competence.
Her findings were remarkable.
Students who watched only a two-second video clip of the teachers formed similar impressions to the students who were enrolled in the classes for the full semester. (Ambady’s work made its own impression, serving as one of the main sources for Malcolm Gladwell’s business bestseller “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.”)
Other studies have found similar results. Some show that first impressions are formed within seconds, while others find they take just a few minutes to solidify.