Social Skills – Impressions from Appearances


I continue to be surprised by how little my students think about what others think of them.  When I talk to them about how people judge others just from appearances, many of my students seem mystified.  Impressions from Appearances really gets them to consider this social interaction actuality.  This activity not only increases their awareness of how specific aspects of appearance lead to impressions, but also of how impressions can often be inaccurate.

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Social Skills: Impressions from Appearances

I tell my students that they are constantly being judged by their appearance.  Not that it’s right to be judged or judge others from how they look—it just is.  Strangers on the street are getting an impression of them just from how they look: their face, their hair, their body, their clothes, their posture, and their actions.  I also tell them that the impressions derived from appearances are often not accurate.  I use the Impressions from Appearances activity to increase my students’ awareness of this phenomenon, and also to demonstrate that the conclusions we may jump to from appearances can be wrong.  For the activity, we take turns “being judged”, as the others fill out the form together.  I always go first, and I never make a student who seems uncomfortable take a turn.  Also, almost every appearance feature on the form is one that we have control over, such as clothing.  I purposely didn’t include body features such as height or weight.  For “face”, we focus on controllable features, including makeup or beards.  I make sure to point out that the possible impressions various appearances give are often mistaken stereotypes, e.g., women with a lot of tattoos are radical or men who wear jewelry must be gay.  After the form is filled out for each turn, the person judged goes through the “possible impressions” and tells if each is accurate, somewhat accurate, or inaccurate.