Mechanism of assessing other people's personality

We make quick judgments about other people’s personalities based not only on their facial appearance but also on our pre-existing beliefs about what personality represents.

Research results published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) explain how we look at other people’s facial features to form an impression of their personality.

“We form impressions of other people’s personalities through facial appearance in just a few hundred milliseconds,” said Jonathan Freeman, a member of the research team at the University’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Center. New York University (USA), said. “Our findings suggest that facial impressions are shaped not only by specific facial features but also by our beliefs about personality.”

For example, traits that make a face look competent or make a face look friendly have similarities with facial features that lead us to believe that competence and friendliness co-occur in a person’s personality. others.

We often perceive a childish face as cute and innocent. Meanwhile, people with angry faces are dishonest and unfriendly.

“While these impressions are highly reliable, they are often quite inaccurate,” Freeman added. “A number of previous studies have shown that first impressions of people’s faces play an important role in a wide range of real-life situations, from political elections, hiring decisions, criminal convictions, and so on. dating or even dating”.

Other authors of the study include Ryan Stolier at New York University’s Department of Psychology, Eric Hehman at McGill University (Canada), Matthias Keller and Mirella Walker at the University of Basel (Switzerland). The study was supported by the US National Institutes of Health and the US National Science Foundation.

Mechanism of assessing other people's personality
Impressions of another person’s personality through a face form in less than 1 second. (Photo: Independent).

First impressions of our face can influence how we interact and make decisions with others. Therefore, understanding the mechanism behind these impressions is crucial for the development of techniques to reduce bias based on facial features, which often operate unconsciously.

In the study, published in PNAS, the scientists conducted a series of experiments to find out. They wanted to determine how our pre-existing beliefs about personality expression affect how we “see” it in other people’s faces.

First, all of the 920 volunteers who participated in the experiment reported how much they believed that different traits co-occur in other people’s personalities. For example, they will report how much confidence they have in the competence and friendliness that manifests in others.

Each participant then observed dozens of faces displayed on a computer screen and quickly rated those faces for competence and friendliness. This allowed the researchers to see if volunteers thought competent faces were also friendly.

In addition, the volunteers were asked about a number of other personality traits including: cute, hot-tempered, assertive, caring, dedicated, confident, creative, like to stand out, egotistical, and calm , extroverted, intelligent, temperate, neurotic, experienced, responsible, self-disciplined, sociable, reliable, unhappy and weird.

The results of the study confirmed what the scientists predicted. The more volunteers believed that any two traits, such as competence and friendliness, co-occurred in the other person’s personality, the more their impressions of the two facial features reflected the other’s personality traits. This is more similar. Therefore, the facial features used to assess human personality can vary depending on our beliefs.

Personal beliefs influence our impressions of faces . Thus, people who believe that any set of personality traits are related will tend to notice similar features in other people’s faces. This explains how humans can make any impression from a face,” says Stolier.

Most personality traits seen from other people’s faces can be traced back to another personality trait, with a few playing a dominant role. “For example a face may not be immediately recognized as conscientious. But it looks cute, smart, and emotional, so the observer can sense this face is dedicated,” Stolier said.

The results of the study offer an explanation for how people can form different impressions of others from just a few facial features.

“We can only see features on a face that directly suggest some personality impression, such as docility, to people with childish faces. However, the sensory system can take some of these impressions and put them together, so that we see a dedicated, or caring face, from a cute and docile face.”, Stolier identify.