People often infer others’ personality attributes through visual observation, called facial profiling by 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 shortcut can lead to biased impressions and limited opportunities for those unfavorably judged.
These researchers asked more than 24 raters to evaluate photographs of 30 different women shown with neutral facial expressions.
Each rater evaluated 10 images, including five photographs before the person had plastic surgery procedures and five images following surgical procedures that included:
- Chin implant,
- Lower blepharoplasty (lower eye lift),
- Upper blepharoplasty (upper eye lift),
- Rhytidectomy (face-lift).
These procedures resulted in cosmetic improvements to eyes and mouth, two regions crucial to expressing and interpreting emotions.
The raters were not informed that some people in the photos had plastic surgery procedures, and they were asked to evaluate each photograph on a 7-point scale for perceived:
- Social skills,
Raters assigned higher scores for likeability, social skills, attractiveness, and femininity to the images following plastic surgery compared with pre-surgery image ratings.
The research team concluded:
“The eyes are highly diagnostic for attractiveness as well as for trustworthiness which may explain why…patients undergoing lower (eyelid surgery) were found to be significantly more attractive and feminine, and had a trend toward improved trustworthiness...
“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 likable and socially skilled postoperatively.”
Separately, volunteers attributed personality traits to neutral faces when they perceived a similarity to standard emotional expressions, reported Princeton’s Christopher P. Said and Alexander Todorov with Nicu Sebe of University of Trento.
Neutral faces rated as positive resembled typical facial expressions of happiness, whereas faces seen as negative resembled facial displays of disgust and fear.
Faces viewed as threatening resembled facial expressions of anger.
These trait inferences resulted from overgeneralization in emotion recognition systems.
Faces that resemble typical emotional expressions can lead to misattributed personality traits and biased impressions.
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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