Tag Archives: emotional expression

Plastic Surgery Changes Perceived Personality Traits

Michael J. Reilly

Michael J. Reilly

People often evaluate others using facial profiling making inferences of personality attributes 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 shortcut can lead to biased impressions and limited opportunities for those unfavorably judged.

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

The research team asked observers to rate women’s personality and character traits following plastic surgery procedures between 2009, and 2013 including:

  • Chin implant,
  • Eyebrow-lift,
  • Lower blepharoplasty (lower eye lift),
  • Upper blepharoplasty (upper eye lift),
  • Neck-lift,
  • Rhytidectomy (face-lift).

Judges assigned higher scores for likeability, social skills, attractiveness, and femininity following plastic surgery compared with their pre-surgery ratings.

Michael Reilly-Preoperative-Postoperative photosPreoperative 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.

Steven Davison

Steven Davison

At least 24 raters, unaware that participants had plastic surgery procedures, evaluated each photograph on a 7-point scale for:

  • Aggressiveness,
  • Extroversion,
  • Likeability,
  • Risk-seeking,
  • Social skills,
  • Trustworthiness,
  • Attractiveness.

Reilly’s team noted that these surgical procedures provided cosmetic improvements to two regions crucial to expressing and interpreting emotions: eyes and mouth.

Michael Reilly - Pre-Post 2They 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.”

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

These results validate empirical findings that people make trait inferences based on facial appearance and structural resemblance to standard emotional expressions, described by University of San Francisco’s Paul Ekman.

Volunteers attributed personality traits to neutral faces when they detected a resemblance to standard emotional expressions, reported Princeton’s Christopher P. Said and Alexander Todorov with Nicu Sebe of University of Trento in their study applying a Bayesian network classifier trained to detect emotional expressions in facial images.

Christopher P. Said

Christopher P. Said

Neutral faces perceived as positive resemble typical facial expressions of happiness, whereas faces seen as negative resemble facial displays of disgust and fear.
Faces viewed as threatening resemble facial expressions of anger.

Trait inferences result from overgeneralization in emotion recognition systems, which typically extract accurate information about a person’s emotional state.

Nicu Sebe

Nicu Sebe

However, faces that bear subtle resemblance to 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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Clothing Influences Thinking and Behavior, not Just Others’ Perceptions

A previous post highlighted the influence of the body on thinking, through “embodied cognition.”

Hajo Adam

Hajo Adam

An extension of this idea is “unclothed cognition,” the impact of clothing on thinking and behavior, according to Rice University’s Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University.

Adam and Galinsky considered the symbolic meaning of clothing and wearer’s physical experience by evaluating the impact of wearing a lab coat on participants’ task performance.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Before the experiments, volunteers said in a survey that they associated “attentiveness” and “carefulness” with “a lab coat.”
Next, participants completed a Stroop Test, a task that requires selective attention to differentiate words in incongruent colors (“red” presented in green letters), while wear a lab coat or their street clothes.

Volunteers performed better when they wore a lab coat than when they completed the same tasks while wearing street clothes.

In other experiments, Adam and Galinsky described the lab coat to some participants as a “doctor’s coat” and to others as a  “painter’s coat.”
Volunteers who wore a “doctor’s coatperformed better on sustained attention tasks and were better able to discriminate features in nearly-similar images, than those who wore a  “painter’s coat.” 

Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis

Clothing’s symbolic meaning as visual communication can influence the viewer’s attributions and the wearer’s behavioral alignment with the role suggested by clothing, argued Joshua I. Davis of Barnard College, who studied the effect of BOTOX injections on emotional experience.

Sandra Forsythe

Sandra Forsythe

Clothing’s impact on others’ evaluation of the wearer was further detailed by Sandra Forsythe, now of Auburn University collaborated with University of Tennessee’s Mary F. Drake, and Charles E. Cox.
They videotaped simulated job interviews of women wearing various styles of dress, and found that more than 75 human resources professionals recommended hiring female job applicants who wore more “masculine” attire than those wearing other styles of dress.

Norah Dunbar

Norah Dunbar

Clothing’s influence on the viewers’ impression of others’ credibility was investigated by University of Oklahoma’s Norah E. Dunbar and Chris Segrin of University of Arizona guided by their colleague Judee Burgoon‘s expectancy violation theory.

Chris Segrin

Chris Segrin

Two instructors gave lectures in undergraduate college classes, wearing either expected “appropriate” attire for this role, or wearing unconventionally casual clothing.
The instructors also provided either high interpersonal support or less rewarding interactions.

Judee Burgoon

Judee Burgoon

Dunbar and Segrin found that students were less influenced by unexpected attire when the instructor provided more social rewards.
They suggested that interpersonal demeanor can be even more influential than clothing in determining impressions of credibility and likability.

Similarly, the impact of clothing on judgments of competence and achievement for both students and teachers in Ohio high schools was demonstrated in research by Bowling Green State’s Dorothy Behling with Elizabeth Williams.

Anat Rafaeli

Anat Rafaeli

Clothing’s influence on impression formation and related organizational dynamics is based on attributes, homogeneity and conspicuousness, posited Anat Rafaeli of Technion, and Boston College’s Michael Pratt.

Michael Pratt

Michael Pratt

Clothing has been considered an important influence on others’ perception of the wearer, and Adam and Galinsky’s studies offer evidence that clothing can affect the wearer’s actual task performance.

-*How has clothing changed your workplace behavior and performance?
-*How do others treat you different depending on your attire?

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Gender Differences in Emotional Expression: Smiling

Previous blog posts have outlined dilemmas women face in being seen as competent yet  “likeable” in negotiations.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld of Stanford and researcher Carol Kinsey Goman note that women can increase perceived authority. if they smile when situationally-appropriate instead of consistently.

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

They imply that observers assign different interpretations to women’s smiles than to men’s smiles.
Washington University in St. Louis’s
Simine Vazire teamed with Laura Naumann of University of California, Berkeley, University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas to investigate gender differences in the meaning of smiling behavior.   

Jacob Miguel Vigil

Jacob Miguel Vigil

They drew on University of New Mexico professor Jacob Miguel Vigil‘s theory that emotional behaviors promote attraction and aversion, based on others’ perceived:

  • Power to provide resources or harm (dominant, masculine behaviors)
  • Trustworthiness to reciprocate altruism (submissive, feminine)
Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Vazire’s team reported that women’s smiles signal positive affect and warmth, which are seen as “trustworthiness cues” in Vigil’s model, and typically attract fewer, but closer relationships.
Gruenfeld and Goman argue that women’s smiling also signals low power in negotiation situations and interpersonal interactions.

Peter Rentfrow

Peter Rentfrow

In contrast, smiling among men indicates confidence and lack of self-doubt, seen as “capacity cues” to the ability to either help or hurt others.
These expressions usually attract numerous, but less-intimate relationships while
conveying a key element of power, self-assurance.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

Team Vazire’s research validated Gruenfeld’s and Goman’s hypothesis that observers interpreted women’s smiles differently than men’s, even if the underlying, subjective emotional experience is similar.

Their work supports  Gruenfeld’s and Goman’s recommendation that women balance smiling, a signal of interpersonal warmth, with powerful non-verbal behaviors to achieve best outcomes in negotiations and workplace performance.

-*How has smiling helped establish your warmth?
-*When has smiling undermined your credibility and power?

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How Accurate are Personality Judgments Based on Physical Appearance?

Appearance, including facial expression, posture, and clothing provide important visual communications to observers.
-*How accurately do observers comprehend these visual communications?

Laura Naumann

Laura Naumann

Simine Vazire

Simine Vazire

Sonoma State University’s Laura Naumann collaborated with Simine Vazire of Washington University in St. Louis, University of Cambridge’s Peter Rentfrow, and Samuel Gosling of University of Texas at Austin to evaluate observers’ accuracy in judging personality traits based on the appearance of people they didn’t know.

Peter Rentfrow

Peter Rentfrow

Volunteers rated 10 personality traits (Paul Costa and Robert McCrae’s Big Five: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, as well as likability, self-esteem, loneliness, religiosity, and political orientation) attributed to people pictured full-body photographs.

Samuel Gosling

Samuel Gosling

The research team compared these measures with ratings by the photographed person and people acquainted with the person.

Paul Costa

Paul Costa

Observers’ judgments were accurate when they rated extraversion, self-esteem, and religiosity among people photographed in a “standardized” pose, and were correct for even more of personality traits when judging photographs in spontaneous poses and facial expressions.
This suggests that candid photographs can provide even more accurate cues to some personality characteristics than planned poses.

Robert McCrae

Robert McCrae

According to Naumann’s team, static cues such as clothing style, and dynamic cues including facial expression and posture provided “cue validity” that enabled observers to make accurate judgments of personality characteristics by “cue utilization.”

John Irving

John Irving

These findings confirmed that observers can make accurate inferences about some personality characterics based on visual cues about others, validating novelist John Irving’s same assertion through his narrator, John Wheelwright, in A Prayer for Owen Meany: “Things often are as they appear. First impressions matter.

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

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