First Impressions of the One, and 2nds and Thirds

first impressions
Second or Third Impression?

The other day I was reading about the brilliant American philosopher, mathematician and scientist S. C. Pierce and his ideas regarding semiotics. It made me think about first impressions, and second and third impressions of the One.

Semiotics is the study of signs and sign processes, or an investigation into how meaning is created and how meaning is communicated. For Peirce, humans know all things in one of three ways: by firstness, secondness or thirdness.

No, I am not going to bore you with philosophical details. You do not have time for that.

First Impressions of the One

But, as an analogy, firstness, secondness and thirdness make a lot of sense in the context of impressions of the One. How many times do we look at another person and say “No, perhaps not.” I have done it, and perhaps still do it if not unconsciously – even in my non-dating life. Am I losing out on opportunities to get to know someone special? 


Roughly speaking, firstness is an initial impression, e.g. ‘I see something red.’ It is perhaps important to note that this is not always a conscious process. A human body is a sign of firstness. I have my eyes stimulated by a bodily appearance in an experience of firstness.


Secondness is a clearer perception of the distinctive features of the object – in our case the person, and is based on contrast or comparison with another perceptual experience. In the opposition of two, each becomes clearer. A person’s behavior is perhaps a referent of secondness.


When I then understand something well enough to generalize about it, my knowledge is of the level of thirdness. Now, we might be talking about the character and personality of the person.

People say that you can only make a first impression once. True. It is also a scary thought, especially for prospective singles when they meet for a first time. But how important are first impressions? How lasting or weighty is that first impression? It perhaps depends on the mindset or attitude of the beholder (perceiver).

Give Second and Third Impressions a real Chance

Singles with a healthy sense of self-interest will probably not simply stop at first impressions, and will likely give the second and perhaps third impression a chance.

Why healthy sense of self-interest? What do I mean by self-interest? Self-interest generally refers to a focus on the needs or desires (interests) of one’s self. We are not talking about self-absorption, selfishness, or self-centeredness, etc. Self-interest, for the sake of our case, speaks to behavior or activities that are advantageous to an individual.

I argue that for an individual to survive and grow, a degree of self-interest is necessary. Self-interest is a motivating force. Because of it, people cooperate and compete with each other. Selflessness, on the other hand, is only an attitude and can, at best, tone down excessive, inner drives. Not even a little wall flower survives on selflessness alone.

To make a long story short, smart folks give second and third impressions a real chance!

Love at First Sight
So, what about that famous “love at first sight?” Well, we all know that it may not last very long. Second and third impressions will sooner or later come along to make their impact – for better or worse. Dating singles with a healthy sense of self-interest understand that.

However, this does not mean that love at first sight cannot survive the years that follow. Second and third impressions might just confirm what the first impression sometimes offers: a dream come true…

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