We're Less Likely to Contradict Someone Who Has a Trustworthy Face

How does someone's facial features influence how we view their decisions? The truth is if we think someone has a trustworthy face, we're less likely to contradict their decisions.

First impressions are, in part, based on superficial things. We judge people based on what clothing they wear, what their face looks like, what they sound like, and so on. Yes, in a perfect world we'd only judge people based on their actions alone with no inherent bias. But Alex Fadera from the BPS Research Digest has summarized an interesting study that shows how we may or may not decide to contradict someone else's decisions based on looks alone.


The study, published in the journal of Personnel Psychology, used 609 participants and asked them to review a decision made by the CEO of an imaginary company. The CEO was planning on cutting pay back by 15 percent for all staff, himself included. The researchers initially found that participants felt more faith in the CEO's decision if he had a photo posted in his biography that featured what participants considered a “trustworthy” face. Participants were more likely to claim his solution wasn't fair if he had an “untrustworthy” face in his photo. 

Participants were also asked if they thought there was another solution to this financial crisis that the company faced. Those who thought the CEO had a trustworthy face were less likely to think there were other, fairer alternatives. Whereas those who thought he had an untrustworthy face were more likely to question his actions.

These results are fascinating in how we might mindfully review another person's actions and decisions in the real world, solely based on looks--how it could influence a jury or voters.

Researcher wrote of their results:

“The finding that initial trustworthiness impressions derived from surface cues (facial appearance) help shape subsequent perceptions of justice has important implications for justice theory and research.”

It may be something to keep in the back of your mind when people start announcing their run for the Presidency. Next time you hear someone justify their allegiance to a particular candidate with the phrase, “He/She just has a trustworthy face,” that should be a red flag.

Read more at BPS Research Digest

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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