How Accurate are Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance?

Appearance, including facial expression, posture, and clothing provide visual communications to observers.
-*But how accurate are inferences made from these clues?

Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

Sonoma State University’s Laura Naumann, with Simine Vazire then of Washington University in St. Louis, University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas at Austin investigated by asking volunteers to rate 10 personality traits, including Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism.
These Big Five personality traits
, proposed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, were evaluated in addition to likability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation for people pictured full-body photographs.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Peter Jason Rentfrow

These measures were compared with ratings by the photographed person and people acquainted with these individuals.

Observers’ judgments were accurate when they rated extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity among people photographed in a “standardized” pose, and were correct for additional personality traits when judging photographs in spontaneous poses and facial expressions.

Paul Costa

This suggests that candid photographs provide more accurate cues to some personality characteristics than planned poses.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

Clothing style, a static cue, provided less information to raters, resulting in less accurate judgments of personality characteristics.
In contrast,
 facial expression and posture are dynamic cues that enabled observers to make more accurate judgments.

John Irving

John Irving

These findings confirmed that observers make accurate inferences about some personality characteristics based on visual cues.
Novelist John Irving’s narrator, John Wheelwright, in A Prayer for Owen Meany, explained this finding as common sense: “Things often are as they appear. First impressions matter.

-*How accurate are your judgments of personality traits for people you don’t already know?
-*How accurate are other people’s inferences about your personality traits?

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©Kathryn Welds

8 thoughts on “How Accurate are Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance?

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