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You’ve just got one of those faces

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This article at the Mind Hacks Blog summarizes some research being done in the area of how we decide to trust (or mistrust) a person based on the shape of their face. It starts with an article at the Boston Globe, with an accompanying graphic illustration of the pertinent facial characteristics:

behavioral scientists have also begun to unravel the inner workings of trust. Their aim is to decode the subtle signals that we send out and pick up, the cues that, often without our knowledge, shape our sense of someone’s reliability. Researchers have discovered that surprisingly small factors – where we meet someone, whether their posture mimics ours, even the slope of their eyebrows or the thickness of their chin – can matter as much or more than what they say about themselves. We size up someone’s trustworthiness within milliseconds of meeting them, and while we can revise our first impression, there are powerful psychological tendencies that often prevent us from doing so – tendencies that apply even more strongly if we’ve grown close.

Here’s something else I found interesting:

Another set of cues, and a particularly powerful one, is body language. Mimicry, in particular, seems to put us at our ease. Recent work by Tanya Chartrand, a psychology professor at Duke, and work by Jeremy Bailenson and Nick Yee, media scholars at Stanford, have shown that if a person, or even a computer-animated figure, mimics our movements while talking to us, we will find our interlocutor significantly more persuasive and honest.

Cute, eh? Go read the Globe article; it’s great.

If you love academic writing, or even more detail, here’s a PDF of a Princeton University study on the subject.

Written by Michael DeBusk

August 21st, 2008 at 6:55 pm

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