I REMEMBER READING ABOUT an ingenious experiment
on how hard it is to change peoples minds after theyve
already formed an opinion. The researchers took people who believed
in the death penalty and people who didnt, and showed them
studies on the subject. Some studies were comparisons between
two states of the U.S., one with the death penalty and one without,
and how their crime rate differed. Other studies showed before
and after crime rates of states who either did or didnt
have the death penalty and then changed.
The experimenters discovered that no matter
which of the studies they showed people, their opinions did
not change! Not only that, but whether they were for or against
the death penalty, these people, all of whom viewed the same
studies, became even more convinced of their original
opinion. To all of them, the studies only reinforced
their already existing opinions. What they did was find flaws
legitimate in most cases in the studies, which
gave them a good reason not to change their opinion. But they
only criticized the study that did not support their opinion
and they praised the study that did, pointing out all
the (again, legitimate) reasons the study was a good one. But
nobody changed their opinion.
This probably doesnt surprise you.
Most of us realize that people dont like to change their
opinions, and that they skew their perception of the events of
the world to support their own opinions, and tend to criticize
or be skeptical of unsupportive events.
Now heres the point: People also
do that with their opinions of you. When you first meet
someone, they size you up and form an opinion about you. If you
are cranky the first time you meet someone, they will tend to
think of you as a grumpy person. If you are not grumpy
the next time they see you, they usually wont think to
themselves, Oh, I was mistaken. No. They will think
to themselves, Oh, Mister Grumpy must have gotten some
exceptionally good news today. They will discount it if
it is inconsistent with their first impression of you.
Thats why it often takes a long time
to change someones first impression and why its
important to make a good one when you have a chance.
Try to make a good first impression.