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Facial Dimensions May Be Key to First Impressions
Date:7/28/2014

eone wants to represent himself or herself."

In the study, published July 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers measured 65 physical facial features, such as eye height and eyebrow width, and tried to develop a statistical model that could accurately predict first impressions.

"By combining them we could explain over half of the variation in human raters' social judgments. This was surprisingly straightforward, and our equations involve only weighting the different physical features and adding them together," Hartley said.

Among other things, a "masculine" face -- determined in part by eyebrow height, cheekbone structure, skin color and texture -- was linked to dominance. More feminine face shapes created perceptions of attractiveness and youth, the researchers found.

"Some of our most important judgments do depend on fairly obvious features: a smile looks friendly, and an angry expression makes you less approachable," Hartley said. "However, many of the features we identified as correlated with social impressions are far less obvious. For example, an unapproachable-looking person has a pale, drawn appearance."

The main problem, as it's always been, is that the cover doesn't always reflect the book.

"The danger is that these instant judgments are inaccurate, that we misjudge people based on their appearance," Hartley said. "Worse still, we're largely unaware of the extent to which our initial feelings toward other people are influenced by appearance, and this makes us prey to unconscious biases."

Evolutionary changes may have given humans the ability to make instant judgments so they could identify potential allies and enemies, not to mention mates, Hartley said.

Along those lines, Hartley suggested that people read the study before they post a photo with their resume or online dating profile.

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