Science of Learning Research Centre

PEN Principle #10 First Impressions Colour Future Judgement

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First impressions can count – even in the classroom

fact sheet – video – podcast

Much has been written open-principle-10ver centuries, even dating back to the Ancient Greeks, about how important first impressions are on long-term relationships and decision-making thought processes. fact sheet

And Australian researchers have determined that first impressions by teachers and students can strongly influence short and long-term outcomes in the classroom, supporting the proverb “first Impressions are the most lasting”. video

Applying neuroscience, cognitive psychology and educational processes, researchers have determined that first impressions, either favourable or unfavourable, will have a resulting positive or negative predisposition on a person, object or situation over an extended period. podcast

The First Impressions Colour Future Judgement message is among a series of new PEN Principles – Psychology, Education and Neuroscience – developed by Australia’s Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) to assist teachers, students and parents across the country.

The researchers have been assessing a range of teaching and learning processes in an effort to develop science-based strategies, tools and information designed to improve Australia’s learning and educational outcomes.

The impact of first impressions has been debated for centuries with varying views published. Early 20th Century European author Frank Kafka is quoted as saying “First impressions are always unreliable”, while American diplomat Elliott Abrams is quoted as saying: “First impressions matter … we size up new people in somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes”.

SLRC researchers have determined that this first impression is quickly ratified in the mind through the establishment of a ‘confirmation bias’, which entrenches the favourable or unfavourable opinion. Individuals then tend to seek out and/or interpret additional information which supports that initial opinion.

Using brain scanning, neuroscientists have determined that when we form a first impression the amygdala, the primary driver of emotions in the brain, shows strong activation. This indicates that first impressions are emotionally driven and it would take a significantly large emotional response to change that first impression.

In a practical classroom sense this research suggests teachers and students form very quick opinions which tend to last – positive or negatively. Poor first impressions have been shown to flow through to impaired classroom results in students, and even through to exam and assignment marking; while positive first impressions have shown better results in the classroom and overall learning outcomes.

The research indicates the importance for teachers of starting new subjects or class topics in a strong, positive manner as it is likely the first lesson will influence how students approach all future lessons and tasks.

The PEN Principles have been developed in video, podcast and poster format to enable ease of use by teachers, students and parents.


About The SLRC

The Science of Learning Research Centre (SLRC) was established in 2013, funded as an Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative, with the vision to improve learning outcomes at pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary levels through scientifically-validated learning tools and strategies. The SLRC brings together more than 100 neuroscientists, psychologists and education researchers from across the country, collaborating on programs to better understand learning, using a range of innovative experimental techniques and programs.