First Impressions Count: People judge how trustworthy you are within half a second

People make judgements, including how attractive someone is, without seeing them

Scientists have discovered that it only takes saying ‘hello’ for someone to decide whether or not you can be trusted.


Glasgow University researchers have found that it takes around half a second to make a good first impression.

The researchers worked with psychologists from Princeton in the US to find out that a simple ‘hello’ is enough to allow most people to draw conclusions about personality type. 

They discovered that people judge someone on how trustworthy or dominant they are within the first 500 milliseconds of hearing the person’s voice.

They also found that people will make these judgements, including how attractive they are, without seeing the person to whom we are speaking.

The study used recordings of people saying ‘hello’ and asked test subjects to rank them according to 10 pre-defined personality traits including trustworthiness, dominance, attractiveness and warmth.

They found that most of the recorded voices elicited the same response from participants and that these opinions were formed very rapidly.

This suggests that the tone of voice you use when saying ‘hello’ to someone new informs the first impression of the person to whom you are speaking. 

The most important traits identified were trustworthiness and dominance. 

The study also showed that males who raise their tone and women who alternate the pitch of their voices are seen as more trustworthy. 

Dr Phil McAleer, from the Voice Neurocognition Laboratory, Glasgow University, who led the study, said: “It is amazing that from such short bursts of speech you can get such a definite impression of a person. 

“And more so that, irrespective of whether it is accurate, your impression is the same as what the other listeners get.

“It is perhaps also consistent that we are most attuned to recognising signs of trustworthiness and dominance, two traits that would have been central to our survival as we evolved.”

This research could help in improving the efficiency of voice-operated systems and learning aids, and to shed new light on the automatic judgments we make about strangers we don’t meet face to face – from conductors making announcements on trains to business people making ‘cold calls’.

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