People often evaluate others using intentional or unintentional facial profiling — making inferences of personality attributes and personal qualities by visual observation, according to Georgetown University Hospital’s Michael J. Reilly, Jaclyn A. Tomsic and Steven P. Davison, collaborating with Stephen J. Fernandez of MedStar Health Research Institute.
This cognitive short cut can lead to biased impressions and limited opportunities for those unfavorably judged.
They asked observers to rate women’s personality and character traits following plastic surgery procedures between 2009, and 2013 including:
- Chin implant,
- Lower blepharoplasty (lower eye lift),
- Upper blepharoplasty (upper eye lift),
- Rhytidectomy (face-lift).
Judges assigned higher scores for likeability, social skills, attractiveness, and femininity following plastic surgery compared with their pre-surgery ratings.
Preoperative and postoperative photographs of 30 women exhibiting “well-matched neutral facial expressions” were split into 6 groups, each with 5 preoperative and 5 postoperative photographs of different participants.
At least 24 raters, unaware that participants had plastic surgery procedures, evaluated each photograph on a 7-point scale for:
- Social skills,
Reilly’s team noted that these surgical procedures provided cosmetic improvements to two regions crucial to expressing and interpreting emotions: eyes and mouth.
They concluded that:
“The eyes are highly diagnostic for attractiveness as well as for trustworthiness which may explain why, in our patient population, patients undergoing lower (eyelid surgery) were found to be significantly more attractive and feminine, and had a trend toward improved trustworthiness as well.”
“The corner of the mouth is the diagnostic region for both happy and surprised expressions and plays an important role in the perception of personality traits, such as extroversion.
“A subtle upturn of the mouth and fullness in the cheeks can make a person look more intelligent and socially skilled.
“This appearance may explain why patients undergoing a facelift procedure … are found to be significantly more likeable and socially skilled postoperatively.”
These results validate empirical findings that people make trait inferences based on facial appearance in part by structural resemblance to standard emotional expressions, described by University of San Francisco’s Paul Ekman.
Princeton’s Christopher P. Said and Alexander Todorov with Nicu Sebe of University of Trento used a Bayesian network classifier trained to detect emotional expressions in facial images, and found that people attributed personality traits to neutral faces when they detected a resemblance to standard emotional expressions.
Neutral faces perceived with a positive valence resemble happiness, whereas faces seen as having negative valence resemble disgust and fear.
Faces viewed as threatening resemble anger.
Trait inferences result in part from an overgeneralization of emotion recognition systems, which typically extract accurate information about a person’s emotional state.
However, faces that bear subtle resemblance to emotional expressions can be misattributed personality traits and biased impression formation.
These judgments can change for the better when a person’s appearance changes after plastic surgery.
-*To what extent do people’s personality traits seems different following plastic surgery?
-*How often are people treated differently following plastic surgery?
–*What are ways to avoid confusing emotional expressions with personality traits?
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