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Methods to Increase the Accuracy of Impressions

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  • 0:00 Accuracy of Impressions
  • 1:16 Analyze Your Impressions
  • 2:18 Check Your Perceptions…
  • 3:15 Reduce Uncertainty
  • 4:13 Increase Cultural Sensitivity
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

We form impressions of others all the time, and we want these to be accurate. Explore four strategies to improve impression accuracy, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Accuracy of Impressions

In the late 19th century, French artist Claude Monet became famous for capturing the impression of a moment through his oil paintings. Monet's impressionist paintings caused quite a stir and got people thinking about how we perceive the world around us and about how we form impressions, or superficial subconscious evaluations of a moment. Impressions are like the study guide notes of our realities - they're quick summaries that don't provide much depth but give you enough information to interact. This is actually a pretty important part of perception.

Like a Monet painting, our impressions represent a fleeting and blurred depiction of people, places, and events. They're not enough to help you make out important details, but they are enough for your mind to figure out what's going on. Still, since they are so important, we want them to be accurate. Today, we're going to talk about how to increase the accuracy of our impressions when we meet other people. And it is possible - with practice, your impressions can become much more reliable. Get the picture?

Analyze Your Impressions

Let's start with one of the most basic ways to increase the accuracy of our impressions. Impression analysis is very simply logically evaluating your impressions. Our impressions are based in emotions - what we want, need, fear, hope, etc. So, a logical analysis brings this back into the realm of rational, rather than emotional thinking. It's a 2-step process. First, when you meet someone new, you've got to be aware that you are forming impressions. Now, you are constantly forming impressions, so it's an automatic and subconscious process. Becoming consciously aware of it can be tricky.

The second step is being aware of factors that can influence your perception. Are you hungry, are you scared, do you have positive or negative memories with similar past experiences? Acknowledge your prejudices, and then analyze logically whether or not these are accurate in your current scenario.

Check Your Perceptions with Someone Else

Another way we can increase the accuracy of impressions is through perception checking, seeking clues to validate our perceptions. This is a verbal process that involves literally asking someone else if your impression of them is accurate. Admittedly, this process is easier to do with friends than strangers, but again, there are two steps. First, describe what you are perceiving. 'Hey, I noticed that you called me a lot yesterday, and today you seem unhappy.' That's an example of describing what you've observed.

The other step is confirmation. Basically, ask if your impression is accurate. 'Something's bothering you, isn't it?' Don't try and be a mind reader; don't assume that you know what's going on based on your impression. Your impressions can be great tools to pick up on clues about other people, but use them to get a conversation started.

Reduce Uncertainty

When we form a first impression of another person, we make assumptions. We can't help it; uncertainty is part of the impression-forming process. That's why it's important to find out if our impressions are accurate. Reducing uncertainty simply means decreasing the number of factors we were uncertain about when we formed the impression.

You can reduce uncertainty about a person by simply getting to know them. Try asking the person questions to find out what's on his or her mind. You could also ask other people who know the person whether the type of behavior you've witnessed is normal or out of character. This process can help you decide whether or not your first impression was valid. If not, remind yourself that the impression was inaccurate, and let your mind form new impressions, using all of the new information you've gathered to clarify the things you didn't understand.

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