"Smart" is an Instant Perception
Within fractions of a second, in a phenomenon that psychologists call “thin slicing”, we make evaluations about various characteristics of people we meet. One of those characteristics is intelligence. A moment is, obviously, too short a time to hold an in-depth discussion, so on what are our “gut feelings” based?
One key factor affecting our first impressions about intelligence is eye contact. A 2007 study led by Loyola Marymount University professor Nora A. Murphy found that looking your conversation partner in the eye had an enormous impact on your perceived smartness.
Speaking expressively is another factor that influences people to think you are bright. Opinions offered in a monotone, no matter how brilliant, might not impress. But varying your tone and volume will serve you well—especially if you maintain eye contact while you do it! This research intrigued us because we have been teaching these skill sets for years in our course on persuasive presentations. Interesting to discover how important they are in interpersonal influence as well.
We want to hear. What criteria do you think you use to determine if someone is intelligent? Do you actively try to manage people’s perceptions of your own intelligence—and how so? To join the conversation, click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion.
12/8/2015 01:50:08 pm
Hi Susan and Peter
12/8/2015 02:28:44 pm
Thank you, Paddy, for this thoughtful and thorough comment. We so agree with you that eye contact is culturally dependent and varies around the world. Perhaps what makes it most challenging is the strength of cultural bias both for and against it. Really appreciate your sharing your insights with our community. How much better it is to learn before making a mistake! (We learned about not sitting on a table in NZ by offending more than a few people in our audience!) Again, thank you for staying in touch. Kia Ora
12/8/2015 06:04:17 pm
I witnessed myself contemplating the intelligence of a fellow today while I studied his shabby attire and untied shoes..Especially the shoes.
12/10/2015 07:05:14 am
How interesting and relevant to this week's Communication Capsule, Todd. When we were just beginning our consulting practice a mentor mentioned that shoes are one of the first things people look at when making instantaneous decisions about people. Definitely made a long term impression on us! Thanks for your comment.
5/29/2017 03:35:40 am
Eye contact is expected in Western culture, it is a basic essential to a social interaction which shows a person’s interest and engagement with your conversation.
6/3/2017 09:17:14 am
Very true. And more than any other nonverbal behavior, when we don't receive eye contact (in western culture) we often feel disrespected.
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