Facial features are the key to first impressions

July 28, 2014, University of York

A new study by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of York shows that it is possible to accurately predict first impressions using measurements of physical features in everyday images of faces, such as those found on social media.

When we look at a picture of a face we rapidly form judgements about a person's character, for example whether they are friendly, trustworthy or competent. Even though it is not clear how accurate they are, these first impressions can influence our subsequent behaviour (for example, judgements of competence based on facial images can predict election results). The impressions we create through images of our faces ("avatars" or "selfies") are becoming more and more important in a world where we increasingly get to know one another online rather than in the flesh.

Previous research has shown that many different judgements can be boiled down to three distinct "dimensions": approachability (do they want to help or harm me?), dominance (can they help or harm me?) and youthful-attractiveness (perhaps representing whether they'd be a good romantic partner - or a rival!).

To investigate the basis for these judgements the research team took ordinary photographs from the web and analyzed physical features of the faces to develop a model that could accurately predict first impressions. Each of 1,000 faces was described in terms of 65 different features such as "eye height", "eyebrow width" and so on. By combining these measures the model could explain more than half of the variation in human raters' social judgements of the same faces.

Reversing the process it was also possible to create new cartoon-like faces that produced predictable first impressions in a new set of judges. These images also illustrate the features that are associated with particular social judgements.

The study, published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shows how important faces and specific images of faces can be in creating a favourable or unfavourable first impression. It provides a scientific insight into the processes that underlie these judgements and perhaps into the instinctive expertise of those (such as casting directors, portrait photographers, picture editors and animators) who create and manipulate these impressions professionally.

Richard Vernon, a PhD student who was part of the research team, said: "Showing that even supposedly arbitrary features in a face can influence people's perceptions suggests that careful choice of a photo could make (or break) others' first impressions of you."

Fellow PhD student, Clare Sutherland, said: "We make first impressions of others so intuitively that it seems effortless - I think it's fascinating that we can pin this down with scientific models. I'm now looking at how these first impressions might change depending on different cultural or gender groups of perceivers or faces."

Professor Andy Young, of the Department of Psychology at York, said: "Showing how these first impressions can be captured from very variable of faces offers insight into how our brains achieve this seemingly remarkable perceptual feat."

Dr Tom Hartley, who led the research with Professor Young, added: "In everyday life I am not conscious of the way faces and pictures of are influencing the way I interact with people. Whether in "real life" or online; it feels as if a person's character is something I can just sense. These results show how heavily these impressions are influenced by visual features of the face - it's quite an eye opener!"

Explore further: Same face, many first impressions

More information: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1409860111

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not rated yet Jul 28, 2014
First impressions are associated with olfactory/pheromonal input and cell type differentiation via amino acid substitutions and the experience-dependent receptor-mediated de novo creation of olfactory receptor genes in all mammals.


Conditioned responses to faces are hormone-organized and hormone-activated. That fact has been known since we published our 1996 Hormones and Behavior review: http://www.hawaii...ion.html
not rated yet Jul 29, 2014
The link from olfactory/pheromonal input to cell type differentiation was established in yeasts and linked to the diet of nematodes and their ecological speciation.


The link was extended to insects and then to hormone-organized and hormone-activated behavior in birds.

The presentations at the yeast genetics meeting this week take most of what is known about the epigenetic effects of olfactory/pheromonal input and extend it to humans via the conserved molecular mechanisms we detailed in our 1996 review.

This abstract links nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled physiology of reproduction to biodiversity in species from microbes to man via those conserved molecular mechanisms.

Vitamin D-dependent amino acid substitutions stablize the organized human genome.
not rated yet Jul 30, 2014
Vitamin D-dependent amino acid substitutions

At what level do these substitutions occur? Is vitamin D changing alleles directly or only affecting mRNA?
not rated yet Jul 31, 2014
So, in other words, people do judge people for the way they look?
not rated yet Jul 31, 2014
The anonymous fool asks:
At what level do these substitutions occur? Is vitamin D changing alleles directly or only affecting mRNA?

Read his review of my most recent publication to learn what he knows about biologically-based cause and effect. I am unable to answer questions from those with knowledge that is so limited and whose egos are overwhelming.


"Despite his valid publications involving endocrinology, sexuality, and epigenetically induced intraspecies differentiation in model organisms, James V. Kohl overextends his expertise in trying to overthrow established evolutionary theory."

I didn't try to do anything; I simply presented the biological facts, which happen to refute the pseudoscientific nonsense of mutation-initiated natural selection in the context of what is obviously the nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled biophysically-constrained ecological basis for ecologically-adapted biodiversity.
not rated yet Jul 31, 2014
I am unable to answer questions

No, you are unwilling because it would expose your ignorance. I ask questions that you are either incapable of pointing out how they are invalid or are merely incapable of answering. Which is it?
not rated yet Jul 31, 2014

In his comments on my model of sex differences in cell types that are obviously nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled, Simon LeVay wrote:

"This model is attractive in that it solves the "binding problem" of sexual attraction. By that I mean the problem of why all the different features of men or women (visual appearance and feel of face, body, and genitals; voice quality, smell; personality and behavior, etc.) attract people as a more or less coherent package representing one sex, rather than as an arbitrary collage of male and female characteristics. If all these characteristics come to be attractive because they were experienced in association with a male- or female-specific pheromone, then they will naturally go together even in the absence of complex genetically coded instructions."
not rated yet Jul 31, 2014
The anonymous fool, Andrew Jones, wants others to think that homosexual orientation arises via mutations and natural selection in the context of the evolution of biodiversity yet tells me I am unwilling to answer his questions because it would expose my ignorance.

The author's copy of my award-winning model of cell type differentiation that links conserved molecular mechanisms across species from yeasts to humans in the context of sexual orientations is here: http://www.sexarc...kohl.htm

It was concurrently published in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality and as a book chapter in the Handbook of the Evolution of Human Sexuality.

In our 1996 review we wrote: "Parenthetically it is interesting to note even the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has a gene-based equivalent of sexual orientation (i.e., a-factor and alpha-factor physiologies). These differences arise from different epigenetic modifications of an otherwise identical MAT locus."
not rated yet Jul 31, 2014
you are walking down an alley at 2 am, all of a sudden 10 young men come tumbling out of a doorway. They are loudly cursing, wearing baggy pants and wife beater shirts, and are heavily tattooed. Would you be afraid of the group?

Same alley, same time, same group of 10 young men. This time however they are respectably dressed, they are respectful of each other and they are singing Gospel songs (well I might add). Would you be afraid of the group?

Both are first impressions.
not rated yet Jul 31, 2014
Both are first impressions.

Both are classically-conditioned hormone-organized and hormone-activated responses that involve transgenerational epigenetic inheritance and experience-dependent de novo creation of olfactory receptor genes.

not rated yet Jul 31, 2014
"In light of the fact that miRNAs have very precise expression patterns depending on the cell type, tissue and/or developmental stage; it is challenging to generalize a single mechanism to regulate their expression and to identify the target genes that each miRNA has during each stage of neurogenesis." http://journal.fr...175/full

However, in the context of cell type differentiation in species from microbes to man that is nutrient-dependent and pheromone-controlled, the single mechanism that obviously regulates neurogenesis is clearly the conserved molecular mechanism that links olfactory/pheromonal input to amino acid substitutions that differentiate all cell types in all individuals of all species.

If that was not true, there would be no way to link the gene-cell-tissue-organ-organ system pathway from its origins in microbes to brain-directed human behavior. People would need to make stupid claims that our brains mutated into existence.

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