hair first impressions

We all know how important it is to make a good first impression, and in fact, we’ve covered it here before in our blogs. But did you know that your hairstyle is one of the most important parts of that first impression? Studies have shown that the dominant factor in creating a first impression isn’t your face or your clothes, but your hair.

First, let’s look briefly at the areas of the brain that light up and create that crucial first impression. Researchers at New York University under Daniela Schiller studied the neuroscience of first impressions. Subjects were scanned by an fMRI machine while being shown photographs. Two main areas lit up: the posterior cingular cortex and the amygdala. Rather than being new species on Star Trek, these are actually areas of the brain that sort the information received into a cohesive whole. Interestingly, those are at essence the areas of the brain used to assign value/prices to objects.

Psychologists call this phenomenon ‘thin-slicing.’ We are able to perceive through a quick impression what would otherwise take months or even years of rational evaluation. Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book, Blink:

“Thin-slicing is not an exotic gift. It is a central part of what it means to be human. We thin-slice whenever we meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly or encounter a novel situation.”

Here’s where we look at what exactly your hairstyle says: Yale University researcher Marianne LaFrance found that hairstyles overpower faces for creating the majority of a first impression. In a ground-breaking study, LaFrance had 183 men and women watch black and white photographs of faces with different hairstyles flash before their eyes. Each face had 4 different hairstyles, and 1 control look, which was a close-up showing no hair. Subjects had less than 4 seconds to record an impression of each picture.

The key findings included:

  • Men with short, front flip or highlighted hairstyles were perceived as the most confident and sexy and also the most self-centered.
  • Medium length and a side part were seen as signs of an inte