Noelle R. '22 Conducts an Independent Study on Stereotypes and First Impressions

Here at St. Anne's-Belfield School we prioritize students' freedom of choice in their education. We want our students to cultivate their curiosity and passion, especially in our Upper School. Several of our Upper School students choose to pursue our Independent Study course option to investigate a topic of their choice in-depth in a way that only an individualized course can allow. Noelle R., a current junior, did just this. 

See the person for who they's more about the character than the way they look. - Noelle R. '22

What do people see when they meet someone for the first time? When Noelle had a question that she sought answers to, she decided to thoroughly investigate the topic. Thus her independent study on stereotypes and first impressions begun. Her independent study consisted of extensive research and culminated in a presentation of her findings. We are so proud of Noelle's hard work and dedication to her project and to her curiosity. Continue reading to learn more about her important research. 


Q&A with Noelle

We were happy to have a Q&A session with Noelle after her presentation, here are just some of her responses. 

What inspired you to undertake this study topic?
I have always questioned the world around me and one day I wondered what people see when they meet someone for the first time. What goes through their mind and are people accurate when they make these impressions? Similarly, how do people present themselves to make a great first impression. For the stereotypes piece, we hear about stereotypes all the time through the media and conversation. Should we use them; should we trust them? Even though these were my original questions, throughout my research I realized how much depth there is to the subjects and how intertwined they are. In the end my essential question focused more on how people make better first impressions of others.

What surprised you the most that you learned in your research?
Starting my research, I thought I would have to make the connection between stereotypes and first impressions. However, the more I read, I realized how connected our personal bias and stereotypes are to first impressions. In my books about first impressions they mentioned stereotypes and in reading about stereotypes the authors talked about first impressions.  Nonetheless, a fun fact from my research is the metaphorical associations we make between how someone looks and a possible characteristic they might embody. For example, someone making an impression of a person with red hair might  think the subject is fiery, passionate, or quick tempered, because we associate those words with the color red. 

What is one key takeaway you think everyone should know about first impressions and stereotypes?
When making a first impression you have to make a choice to look for individuating information and move past stereotypes. The only way to make individuating information a habit is consistency and repetition. Nonetheless, your first impression is just an impression, the only way to truly know who someone is to take the time and learn about them.

View Noelle's Presentation

Further Reading

Noelle was kind enough to share some of her resources on the topic. She advises each of us to continue to research this topic and to investigate our own biases.

  • Prejudice versus Bias: This video explains in more detail on the definitions of bias and prejudice. 
  • Implicit Bias Test: Harvard created this test in order to help people can learn about their unconscious biases. The test uses word association and response time to shed light on some of the generalizations we make without noticing. For further informations and definitions please visit the Learning for Justice website.
  • What Would You Do on Positive Stereotypes: What Would You Do is a television show that uses actors to conduct social experiments and test how an unknowing-audience will react. This clip demonstrates how positive stereotypes can be detrimental as well.


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