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First Impressions - Scott Adams' Blog

First Impressions

Last night my wife convinced me to watch the finale of The Bachelorette. (Spoiler alert) It’s a so-called reality show in which one woman chooses a man from an initial group of 24. On the first episode, the bachelorette gave a “first impression rose” to the guy who stood out from the pack in a positive way. By the final show she had decided that the man who made the best first impression was in fact the best of the bunch. The chosen guy was clearly the most handsome of the bachelors, so it wasn’t a huge surprise.

But it made me reflect on how many times my own first impressions are accurate. Consider movies. I can tell you whether or not I will like an entire movie within the first two minutes, with perhaps a 95% success rate. In fact, that first two minutes is probably more predictive than the movie trailer.

It’s the same with books. I can open a book to any page, read any half-dozen sentences, and come away with an accurate idea of how much I might enjoy the entire book.

Cars, homes, pets – it’s the same thing. Whatever I like in the first minute, I usually like forever. Assuming most of you are the same way, to some degree, what does it say about people?

One theory is that we’re good at predicting the quality of things from scant clues. But can you really tell if a movie will have a good plot, which presumably matters, from the first two minutes?

A second theory is that we make up our minds about things based on the first few irrational cues, and everything that follows is rationalization. So if there’s something in the first two minutes of a movie that I like, for whatever subconscious reasons, I later think that the directing, acting, and plot were also good (enough), even if on some objective level they were not.

As part of my training for hypnosis, years ago, I learned that human brains are rationalization machines, not logic machines. That’s hard to accept, especially in yourself. Your brain tells you otherwise. It insists it is completely rational.

Do you believe you have been rational in your important decisions in life?