Think about the faces of the acquaintances you know and ask yourself how trustworthy you think they are. A new study, published in Psychological Science, indicates that people usually presume that strangers with average, typical faces are more trustworthy than people with more attractive faces.
Carmel Sofer and her research team conducted experiments that investigated what types of faces we generally regard as the faces of trustworthy people. In one of the experiments, the researchers digitally created an average-looking female face as well as an attractive female face. For the average looking face, the researchers combined 92 female faces. For the more attractive-looking face, they combined 12 of the most attractive faces from a separate set of photos. Then, armed with these digitally created faces, the researchers mixed the two faces together to create 11 separate faces that they arranged from least attractive to most attractive.
Female participants were told to rate each face for attractiveness and trustworthiness. Interestingly, the most average-looking faces were regarded as the most trustworthy-looking faces. The closer the digitally created faces were to being typical, the more trustworthy the faces were considered. The further from typical faces were in either direction, the less trustworthy the faces were considered.
A press release explained the findings.
“The resulting ratings revealed a sort of U-shaped relationship between face typicality and trustworthiness: The closer a face was to the most typical face, the more trustworthy it was considered to be.”
“Although face typicality did not matter for attractiveness judgments, it mattered a great deal for trustworthiness judgments,” Sofer explained. “This effect may have been overlooked, because trustworthiness and attractiveness judgments are generally highly correlated in research.”
The team then confirmed the results with another experiment that examined the participants perception of trustworthiness.
“By showing the influence of face typicality on perceived trustworthiness, our findings cast a new light on how face typicality influences social perception. They highlight the social meaning of the typical face because trustworthiness judgments approximate the general evaluation of faces. Face typicality likely indicates familiarity and cultural affiliation. As such, these findings have important implications for understanding social perception, including cross-cultural perceptions and interactions.”
Next, the team would like to see how people judge the trustworthiness of faces from other countries as well as how people judge the faces of visitors from other nations. Earlier this year, Inquisitr writer Tara West reported about a photo project that examined how different countries around the world judge attractiveness. In the project, Esther Honig, a journalist and blogger, was shocked by the significant differences in how beauty is defined around the globe.
Sofer and her team feel that the reason average faces seem more trustworthy is due to familiarity and cultural affiliation, so they feel that the obvious next step is to determine how other cultures determine what makes unfamiliar, non-native faces seem most trustworthy.
[Feature photo adapted from photo provided in study]