While people often expect the most attractive people to inspire the most trust in others, this isn’t the case.
Average-looking faces are considered most trustworthy, psychological research finds.
The reason may be down to the ‘typicality’ of an average-looking face.
Dr Carmel Sofer, who led the research, said:
“Face typicality likely indicates familiarity and cultural affiliation — as such, these findings have important implications for understanding social perception, including cross-cultural perceptions and interactions.”
As people’s faces get more distinctive — irrespective of whether it is more or less attractive — it gets less trustworthy.
Dr Sofer said:
“Although face typicality did not matter for attractiveness judgments, it mattered a great deal for trustworthiness judgments.
This effect may have been overlooked, because trustworthiness and attractiveness judgments are generally highly correlated in research.”
The study’s authors write:
“By showing the influence of face typicality on perceived trustworthiness, our findings cast a new light on how face typicality influences social perception.
They highlight the social meaning of the typical face because trustworthiness judgments approximate the general evaluation of faces.”
Dr Sofer said:
“We are interested in how people judge face trustworthiness when visiting other countries and how the locals perceive the visitors.
In addition, we plan to study how face typicality influences trustworthiness judgments, when other factors such as emotional expressions are present.”
The study was published in the journal Psychological Science (Sofer et al., 2014).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
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