Newcastle “people reader” Alan Stevens is developing a system that will match career paths to a collection of personality traits that he says can be determined from jobseekers’ facial dimensions.
The 61-year-old psychologist-in-training consults with schools, recruiters and corporates on body language, facial expressions, facial features, and neurolinguistic programming.
Stevens’ methods aren’t accepted by the wider scientific community – neurolingustic programming is generally regarded as a pseudoscience and features in Neil Strauss’ controversial dating guide “The Game” – but he is in talks with Newcastle University about launching formal research on the topic.
“There is a strong statistical basis but all academics want to see further proof,” he said. “I’ve been chasing universities for some time now. What I’d like to see is for this to become a course.”
Stevens’ people-reading techniques are based on earlier research into facial expressions by Paul Ekman, facial features by Edward Vincent Jones and Robert Whiteside, and body language by David Matsumoto.
He says facial features can reveal personality traits because they reflect both aspects that people are born with (nature), and aspects that they develop throughout their lives (nurture).
“If you look at somebody you can tell straight away if they’re fit because of muscle development,” he said. “It’s the same in the face – we have 43 muscles, and the ones you use over time will develop.”
Here are seven traits that Stevens says he can read from people’s faces:
- Confidence: Indicated by the ratio of facial width to facial length.
Stevens says people whose faces are less than 60% as wide as they are long are cautious by nature, while those whose faces are at least 70% as wide as they are long are naturally confident.
- Friendliness: Indicated by the distance between the top of the eye to the eyebrow, compared the height of the eye.
Stevens says people with higher eyebrows tend to have developed stronger muscles to do with surprised facial expressions. Those people tend to prefer more personal space.
- Tolerance: Indicated by the horizontal distance between eyes.
Stevens says people with wider-set eyes tend to be more tolerant of errors.
- Sense of humour: Indicated by the length of the philtrum.
Stevens links a longer philtrum, which is the vertical groove between the nose and upper lip to a dry sense of humour and sarcasm, whereas people with shorter philtrums may take jokes personally.
- Generosity: Indicated by the shape and size of lips.
Stevens says people with fuller upper lips tend to be more generous with their speech, while people with thinner lips tend to be more concise.
- World view: Indicated by the size of the fold on a person’s eyelid.
Stevens says people with a thicker fold tend to be more analytical, whereas those with thin, or no folds, tend to be more decisive and action-driven.
- Magnetism: Indicated by the depth of colour of eyes.
Stevens says people with deeper-coloured eyes tend to be more charismatic.
Stevens has distilled his facial profiling techniques into two mobile applications, ProfileMe and ProfileMatch, with the latter designed to recommend the best way to interact with people of various personalities.
In the coming months, he hopes to convince the Australian Department of Education to support his work into characterising the 1,800 or so jobs in its official Job Guide and linking them to personality traits that school counsellors can then determine from students’ faces.
“There are 1,800 jobs in the guide – no kid is going to sit there and go through the entire thing,” he said. “What I’d like to do is come up with a list so we can say, ‘Here are some careers that may interest you’.”
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