Changing expressions to appear more trustworthy, dominant or attractive

Changing expressions to appear more trustworthy, dominant or attractive

(Medical Xpress)—If you have one of those faces that people just don't trust, fear not: according to scientists, you can pull an expression that will make you appear more honest.

Researchers have found that faces deemed to be untrustworthy, dominant or unattractive by dint of their shape, can be made to appear the opposite by making specific facial expressions.

They say this 'social camouflage' can be practised and deployed by people to mask the default social impression inferred from their face and ingratiate themselves to others in a host of situations.

Dr Daniel Gill of the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, who conducted the research, said: "Humans communicate a lot through their facial expressions when negotiating various social situations.

"But whether we like it or not, previous well-documented research has shown that people tend to perceive certain personality characteristics or traits in individuals based on the structure of their face.

"This means some people can be judged to be untrustworthy or domineering simply by how they look – a square jaw and large brow conveying dominance, for example. It can have implications for things like mate selection and job opportunities.

"However, there are also basic facial movements that people identify with specific and these movements can override the default impression people have of another person's face."

The researchers used software to generate three-dimensional animated images of faces which can be programmed to move one or more of 42 individual facial groups of muscles – or action units, as they call them – to form a facial expression.

They then asked a group of 12 volunteer observers to judge a set of randomly generated facial expressions on trustworthiness, dominance and attractiveness. This allowed the researchers to ascertain what aspects of an expression conveyed these particular characteristics.

They repeated this procedure again with a different set of volunteers, this time asking them to rate static faces with neutral expressions for the same traits, but based solely on facial morphology – or structure.

Finally, to test whether the static, neutral faces deemed to be untrustworthy, dominant or unattractive could be made to appear trustworthy, submissive and attractive, the researchers animated the second set of faces with the expressions identified with these characteristics from the first experiment.

The study revealed that faces thought to look untrustworthy could be made more honest-looking simply by activating a few muscle groups to form a more virtuous expression. Similarly, dominant could appear meeker through a different expression, however attractiveness, or ugliness, is much harder to feign.

Dr Gill added: "Furthermore, people could train themselves to look more dominant, trustworthy or attractive, although the latter is much harder as the perception of attractiveness is based on many more factors than just facial expressions – as any casting director will know.

"An actor can certainly look more dominant or trustworthy according to their role, but would probably struggle to look more attractive. For that you'd really need an attractive actor."

Professor Philippe Schyns, Director of the Institute, said: "This is the first study to examine how dynamic affect the perception of social traits or characteristics."

So if you want to look more trustworthy; activate your inner and outer brow raiser, brow lowerer, nasolabial deepener, dimpler, lip corner and cheek raiser and the sharp lip puller muscles.

The research by Dr Gill, Professor Philippe Schyns, Dr Oliver Garrod and Dr Rachael Jack is published in the journal Psychological Science.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Family dinners reduce effects of cyberbullying in adolescents

8 hours ago

Sharing regular family meals with children may help protect them from the effects of cyberbullying, according to a study by McGill professor Frank Elgar, Institute for Health and Social Policy. Because family meal times represent ...

The Edwardians were also fans of brain training

14 hours ago

Brain-training programmes are all the rage. They are part of a growing digital brain-health industry that earned more than US$1 billion in revenue in 2012 and is estimated to reach US$6 billion by 2020. The extent to which they actually improve brain function re ...

Report advocates improved police training

Aug 29, 2014

A new report released yesterday by the Mental Health Commission of Canada identifies ways to improve the mental health training and education that police personnel receive.

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Dr_toad
May 16, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Sinister1812
not rated yet May 16, 2014
How can you trust a guy with no teeth? ;)
sirchick
5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2014
Untrustworthy on the left? Looks more like a psycho =/ The one on the right looks high on drugs... i trust neither facial expressions lol !

I only trust based on what people say not their appearance, even then sound logic can still fool you.