What Is Your Face Telling Others About You?

Even though phone calls, emails, SMS and online chat are such important parts of the way we transmit ideas and information in today’s world, the most important conversations and decisions are usually saved for face-to-face meetings. One major reason for this is because facial expressions and movements are still so integral to human communication. So much of what we think about others depends on what we see in their faces.

The features on a person’s face can change or determine how they are perceived, and we are all subconsciously affected by these cues. Every time we see a face, we make judgments on that person's character and personality, and all this happens instantly and automatically in our brains.

Even when most of us think that a person’s facial features shouldn’t matter, we rely on them far more than we imagine, to decide things like how trustworthy, how friendly and how dependable others are.  In fact, there is a lot of evidence that people in roles of leadership in business, politics, military and sports, for example, are often given those roles based on their facial features and not necessarily based on their ability.

Your facial features can determine your destiny

Cognitive neuroscientists at New York University, USA conducted a series of experiments to determine how much a person’s facial structure can affect the way others perceive them. The study was published in the Personality and Social Psychology bulletin in June 2015.
Researchers found that happier-looking faces ranked higher for trustworthiness and friendliness. A wider face gives people the impression of competency, and increases the perception of physical strength. There is a known correlation between testosterone levels and facial width, which can also predict aggressiveness and physical strength.

A person's facial features can determine the way they are perceived in society.
Image courtesy of Jonathan Freeman and Eric Hehman

A similar study at the University of York, UK examined the faces of over 1,000 people from online photos, and examined the way our facial features affect the way people think of us.
Dr. Tom Hartley, lead researcher of the study, explained, “Whether in ‘real life’ or online; it feels as if a person’s character is something I can just sense. These results show how heavily these impressions are influenced by visual features of the face — it’s quite an eye opener.”

Dr. Christopher Olivola of Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business, at Princeton, USA, says that facial features can predict “significant social outcomes in domains as diverse as politics, law, business, and the military.”

His team examined the faces of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and found that many of them had faces that were wide, thus considered more competent. Candidates with more competent looking faces were more often given the job, even when less competent-looking people performed better than them.

Military leaders were found to often have more masculine, squared-jaw and mature faces, giving them the impression of being more dominant. Their dominant looks alone meant they had a greater chance of being promoted to higher military ranks.  

People with trustworthy and likeable faces generally find it easier to win elections, but an untrustworthy face means a greater likelihood of a criminal conviction. Having a trustworthy face also made it more likely that a person will attract investors or be offered a loan by a bank.  

This facial bias is so strong, that researchers at the Warwick Business School, UK found that most people can correctly identify CEOs, sports coaches and military chiefs by their faces. Researcher Dr Dawn Eubanks said: 'Our findings imply that within business, military and sport, individuals who achieve the highest positions of leadership share common facial features that distinguish them from leaders in other domains. The most plausible explanation, in our view, is that leaders are being selected, at least partly, according to how they look.'

These and many other studies prove that facial features are a very significant factor in determining our perception of others, even though the perception may be completely wrong. These facial judgments are so strong, so ingrained, that it may actually change a person’s personality. Dr. Alexander Todorov, Professor of Psychology at Princeton University noted in a 2008 paper that "it is possible that people who are treated as if they have a certain personality trait because of their facial appearance will actually develop that trait in response to interactions with others. However, it is also possible that the self-defeating prophecy might cause the reverse effect. People who are treated as if they have a particular trait might compensate by developing the opposite trait."

Take a look in the mirror. What are your facial features telling other people about you?

--- Cosmetic Medicine, MD

Dr. Liow Tiong Sin is an aesthetic practitioner who practices in Kuala Lumpur and Melaka, Malaysia. He has more than 12 years of expertise with non-surgical cosmetic treatments, and conducts training courses for other doctors from all around Asia. 

To connect with Dr. Liow, Like Cosmedmd's Facebook page, visit Beverly Wilshire Medical Centre's website at http://www.beverlywilshiremedical.com or drop him an email at cosmedmd@gmail.com


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