Lay beliefs in physiognomy explain overreliance on facial impression

Bastian Jaeger, Anthony Evans, M. Stel, Ilja van Beest

Research output: Working paperScientific

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People often rely on a person’s facial appearance when judging their character, even when more diagnostic information is available. This can lead to worse decision outcomes and appearance-based discrimination. What explains this overreliance on facial impressions? In three studies, we examine the role of lay beliefs in physiognomy—the idea that facial features are indicative of a person’s character. We find widespread endorsement of physiognomic beliefs in a representative sample of the Dutch population (Study 1, n = 2,624). Crucially, people with stronger physiognomic belief rely more on facial impressions when making trust decisions (Study 2, n = 224). They are also more confident in their ability to detect corrupt politicians based on facial photographs, but this increased confidence is not associated with superior judgment accuracy (Study 3, n = 406). In sum, our studies show that physiognomic beliefs are widespread and related to overreliance on facial impressions.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPsyArXiv Preprints
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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