I've always heard about an effect that is entitled: The first image is the image that stays. It comes from a translation from a portuguese phrase, I don't know if it's properly translated.

It seems that this is some kind of effect in which the way you present yourself to other person in the first meeting is the one that works as an anchor. It's a very popular saying where I live.

My curiosity is: Does this effect really exists? I mean, has someone studied this effect?

  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean, "First impression last"? Is that what you are trying to say? $\endgroup$
    – Jaeger Jay
    Jul 17, 2015 at 5:04
  • $\begingroup$ @JaegerJay Yes. $\endgroup$
    – Red Banana
    Jul 17, 2015 at 5:57
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    $\begingroup$ Oh perfect. So, I think you're looking for Halo and Horns Effect. I have already explained this effect on the Answer Section. $\endgroup$
    – Jaeger Jay
    Jul 17, 2015 at 6:15

3 Answers 3


There is another common expression: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

The stability of first impressions is empirically sound:

Once formed, first impressions tend to be stable. A review of the literature on the accuracy and impact of first impressions on rater-based assessments found that raters' first impressions are highly correlated with later scores, but it is unclear exactly why. One study tested stability by asking participants to form impressions of people based purely on photographs. Participants' opinions of the people in the photographs did not significantly differ after interacting with that person a month later.

One possible explanation is a well-known and empirically supported cognitive bias called the "anchoring and adjustment heuristic". It seems that people form initial impressions (anchoring), then on subsequent evaluations only make adjustments to the initial impressions, and these adjustments tend to be insufficient. The cause of anchoring is also not well understood.

A more general explanation is "confirmation bias" (anchoring, self-fulfilling prophesy, and the halo effect are all subtypes of this bias), where people form initial impressions, and then confirm their impressions on subsequent evaluations by focusing on information that supports them, and avoiding, ignoring, forgetting, and distorting any information that does not. This is a very empirically robust bias.


What you describe has some similarities with the primacy effect (but I take Arnon's point that the phrase as you describe seems to relate specifically to first impressions in person perception). There is a lot of memory research which relates the order of presentation of a set of stimuli to the degree of recall. The primacy effect is the name given for the tendency for people to recall initially presented items better than subsequent items. However, there is also the recency effect which captures probably the stronger effect whereby items processed more recently tend to be recalled better. Thus, you often get a kind of u-shaped relationship between order of stimulus presentation and recall.

There are range of explanations for the primacy effect. For example, people may have greater opportunity to rehearse initial stimuli and thereby consolidate memory.

Within broader contexts of life, I imagine the primacy effect would map on to a wide range of processes. For example, first impressions have been studied in the context of how we perceive other people. This is presumably related to the concept that we spend time initially forming impressions and then tend to fall back on these impressions rather than update them based on subsequent experience.

Similarly in the skill acquisition context, we often spend an initial period learning a task and then gradually settle into a strategy.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd have to disagree here, as the primacy effect is applied to memorizing lists, which I don't think is quite relevant for this. I'll see about posting an alternative answer later if no one else picks up on it. $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Jul 16, 2015 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg fair point. I've edited the first sentence to highlight your point. $\endgroup$ Jul 17, 2015 at 0:25
  • $\begingroup$ @JeromyAnglim The way I see it, I think the OP is referring to Halo and Horns Effect $\endgroup$
    – Jaeger Jay
    Jul 17, 2015 at 6:19

I think you're referring to Halo and Horns Effect by Edward Thorndike.

It is a cognitive bias that causes you to allow one trait, either good (halo) or bad (horns), to overshadow other traits, behaviors, actions, or beliefs.

If you perceive a celebrity, for example, as kind, approachable, and talented you might think that he has no flaws and be free from any criminal liability - that is Halo Effect. For example, we find Michael Jackson as very talented and one of a kind performer. However, some people cannot believe and won't accept the fact that he sexually abused a child in 1993. Those people won't accept this fact because they were drawn on the good image of MJ before.

On the other hand, if you find a person ugly and lazy you perceive them as pest in the society and have no dreams for their lives - that is Horns Effect. One big example of this is the perception of everybody about Floyd Mayweather, Jr. We find him arrogant and cheater especially in the field of Boxing and always thinks of his money. But that doesn't mean he is not nice to his friends and don't attend to any religious activities.

There goes a saying, "First impression last". Some people, including me, believe that first impressions do not last, but some cannot get over with it.


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