We do judge a book by its cover, according to the latest research by psychologists into judgements made based on how people look.
It can take just one-tenth of a second to determine whether a stranger is trustworthy, dominant or attractive.
And 58% of that impression is based purely on how they look.
The study finds that objective physical features, such as the shape of a person’s jaw, mouth, eyes, or cheekbones, can contribute to the social judgements people form when viewing a face.
Tom Hartley of the University of York, UK, and colleagues analysed the physical features of 1,000 highly variable facial images. Each face was also rated by independent judges for social traits.
These synthesized face-like images illustrate the changes in facial features which typify each of the three social trait dimensions. The low end of the scale is at the left and the high end at the right.
Combining information from 65 physical attributes, such as eyebrow width, mouth area, and cheekbone position, the authors constructed a model which explained 58% of the variance in first impressions based on physical attributes alone.
For example, mouth shape and area were linked to approachability, whereas eye shape and area were linked to attractiveness.
Reversing this process, the authors created a model to generate simulated cartoon faces which produced specific, predictable impressions in observers.
The results suggest that objectively defined physical features may form the basis of social impressions.
“Understanding how first impressions are formed to faces is a topic of major theoretical and practical interest that has been given added importance through the widespread use of images of faces in social media,” the psychologists write in their paper.
The study, Modeling first impressions from highly variable facial images, is published in the journal PNAS.
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