Dr. Matthew C. Keller
First impressions are integral to human interactions, and philosophers and scientists have long discussed the idea that the face is a window into our internal traits. We make judgments of character based on appearance daily, consciously and subconsciously. Explanations for this phenomenon include the attractiveness stereotype, self-fulfilling prophecies, or “good genes” hypotheses from evolutionary psychology, but there have been mixed findings regarding the accuracy of such judgments. The current study investigates correlations between three subjectively judged “internal” traits and objective measures of Intelligence, Extraversion, and Neuroticism on 1600 subjects. We regressed these objective measures on their respective subjective ratings and controlled for several potential mediating factors. We found that Intelligence can be judged accurately even when controlling for potential mediators including attractiveness, SES, and perceived grooming, and ethnicity. Extraversion can also be judged accurately, but appears to be mediated by attractiveness, grooming, smiling, and socioeconomic status. Judgments of Neuroticism, on the other hand, could not be predicted by subjective ratings. This suggests that we can pick up on valid cues towards a person’s internal traits without seeing any of their interactions.
Adams, Tess, "Judging a Book By Its Cover: Are First Impressions Accurate?" (2012). Undergraduate Honors Theses. 281.