Your Facial Bone Structure Has a Big Influence on How People See You

Posted on June 19, 2015

A newly published series of experiments by cognitive neuroscientists at New York University is reinforcing the relevance of facial expressions to perceptions of characteristics such as trustworthiness and friendliness. More importantly, the research also revealed the unexpected finding that perceptions of abilities such as physical strength are not dependent on facial expressions but rather on facial bone structure.

The findings suggest facial expressions strongly influence perception of traits such as trustworthiness, friendliness or warmth, but not ability (strength, in these experiments). Conversely, facial structure influences the perception of physical ability but not intentions (such as friendliness and trustworthiness, in this instance). In addition, decisions that involve guessing at the possible intentions of a person such as to whom you would entrust your money management are more strongly influenced by facial expression, whereas those based on physical ability such as whom you would bet on in a sporting event are more strongly influenced by facial structure.

Previous studies also have shown the effect of facial cues on how we perceive and interact with others but this new work reveals how perceptions of the same person can vary greatly depending on that person's facial expression in any given moment. This variability "has implications for both the people presenting themselves and the perceivers in social interactions," says Jonathan Freeman, a social neuroscientist at New York University and senior author of the study. So, we might consider the impact of our facial expressions in the photos we post online. At the same time, in an ideal world people who look at our photos would give us the benefit of the doubt and hesitate to make spontaneous judgments based only on a single image.

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Source material from Scientific American