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You know that line “You had me at ‘hello’” from the movie Jerry Maguire? Researchers from the University of Glasgow have found that we really do begin to form an impression of a person’s personality from the first word we hear them utter.

The phenomenon, dubbed “The Jerry Maguire effect”, is based on a study that recorded 64 men and women reading a paragraph that included the word ‘hello’. The ‘hellos’ were then extracted and 320 people listened and rated their first impression of the person based on 10 personality traits, including trustworthiness, aggressiveness, confidence, dominance and warmth.

Participants largely agreed on which voice matched which personality. A man with a higher pitched voice, more closely matching a female’s voice, was considered the most trustworthy voice. A gentleman with a low voice was considered the least trustworthy. It’s slightly different for women who were considered more trustworthy if their voice raised or fell at the end of the word. The deeper the voice the more dominant they seemed.

The ability to instantly judge a person based on their voice appears to be an inane trait of mammals. Jody Kreiman, a UCLA researcher, says that this is likely be for the sake of survival, “Things that are important for behavior and for survival tend to happen pretty fast…You don’t have a huge amount of time. It has to be a simple system of communication.” Another example of emotion trumping reason.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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