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QuestionDo certain types of people actually look different

Satoshi Kanazawa: This is research that I took part in marginally, but other people are doing right now. That is one of the stereotypes that people tend to reject. You can’t judge a book by its cover. It turns out that you indeed can judge a book by its cover because nice people look nice and nasty people look nasty. Just by looking at people you can tell who is likely to cooperate and who is likely to defect in any social exchange situations and you can sometimes you can often tell who are criminals and who are law abiding citizens just by looking at them because they do look different.

QuestionHow do they look different

Satoshi Kanazawa: That part we don’t know yet. It’s not mannerisms because you can tell… You can judge from still pictures. You don’t have to… If you look at movements you might be able to tell better, but that’s not necessary. Most of these studies are done with still photos, so there is no voice. There is no speech. There is no mannerism. It’s just their face somehow looks different. Nobody knows exactly what are different about them, but our brain is designed to tell because there are so many costs associated with hanging out with defectors and potential criminals we are designed to sort of avoid them, so we remember their faces better and then we can sort of tell who are nice people and who are bad people just by looking at them. 

More from the Big Idea for Wednesday, August 25 2010


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