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Facial Features Are First Impressions

By on August 4, 2014

Black men know better than most what it’s like to be judged before  a word is spoken. Skin color can often be judged negatively by non-blacks with real life consequences.

Now a research study says first impressions are influenced by the shape and features of a person’s face. Social scientists from York University, in the United Kingdom, say the face alone — and how it’s perceived,  accounts for as much as 50%  this multipart decision making process.

The researchers took 1,000 photographs and plotted over 65 different facial features to analyze.

First impressions of social traits, such as trustworthiness or dominance, are reliably perceived in faces, and despite their questionable validity they can have considerable real-world consequences. We sought to uncover the information driving such judgments, using an attribute-based approach.

Using this information, researchers were then able to create a computer avatar that could consistently produce predictable first impressions.


The study was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

“Showing that even supposedly arbitrary features in a face can influence people’s perceptions suggests that careful choice of a photo could make (or break) others’ first impressions of you,” said Richard Vernon, a graduate student and member of the research team.


Content for this article provided in part by research study abstract.  


Author contributions: A.W.Y. and T.H. designed research; R.J.W.V. and C.A.M.S. performed research; C.A.M.S. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; R.J.W.V. and C.A.M.S. analyzed data; R.J.W.V., C.A.M.S., A.W.Y., and T.H. wrote the paper; R.J.W.V. contributed to the development of the model and face coding scheme.; C.A.M.S. contributed to the design of the validation experiment.; A.W.Y. conceived the study; and T.H. conceived the study and contributed to modeling methods.