Physiognomy, or the theory that we can make assumptions about a person’s character based on their facial features, was once widely supported. The concept doesn't have as many fans as it once did because most attempts to draw relationships between face and personality have been discredited; however, a new study finds that when it comes to first impressions, particular features do communicate specific personality traits with surprising consistency.
In short, you might be a very kind, approachable person, but your Facebook photo could say otherwise.
To test whether specific facial features convey personality, scientists at the University of York collected 1,000 images of people’s faces from the Internet. The pictures were all taken at different angles and featured various expressions.
Researchers marked 65 points around each face and measured the distances between them to determine everything from the size of the person’s eyes to the shape of their jaw.
They then asked study participants to rate the photos on three traits — approachability, dominance and attractiveness — and they found that a combination of facial features could predict participants’ first impressions of the people in the photos with incredible accuracy.
Researchers found that wide smiles were correlated with approachability, large eyes with youthfulness and attractiveness, and masculinity with dominance.
Using these correlations between facial measurements and perceived attributes, scientists created cartoon faces to represent each tested personality trait. They presented these cartoon faces to another set of participants who consistently picked up on the personality traits that researchers expected.
This study isn’t the first to find that our first impressions are often shared. There’s even evidence that we can accurately predict qualities like extraversion, self-esteem and trustworthiness based on photos alone.
Wider faces in men have been linked with aggression and perceptions of untrustworthiness. Researchers have even found that broad-faced men are more likely to cheat for financial gain and that hockey placers with wide faces spent more time in the penalty box.
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