Understanding the role of faces in person perception: Increased reliance on facial appearance when judging sociability

Bastian Jaeger, Anthony Evans, Mariëlle Stel, Ilja van Beest

Research output: Working paperScientific

Abstract

Faces play a central role in person perception. People spontaneously judge others’ personality based on their facial appearance and these impressions guide many consequential decisions. Under what conditions do people rely on facial appearance? Here, we test whether reliance on facial appearance depends on the goal of impression formation (i.e., on which trait dimension targets are evaluated). Trait impressions are, to a large extent, based on the resemblance of facial cues to emotion expressions. As emotional expressiveness is a central component of sociability, we hypothesized that people would more readily perceive sociability in faces. Across three preregistered studies (N = 1,436), we find that facial appearance is indeed seen as more indicative of a person’s sociability than their morality or competence. We find the same pattern when examining the influence of facial cues on judgment and decision-making. People are more confident in the accuracy of their trait impressions when judging sociability (vs. morality or competence; Study 1, n = 527), they value information on the facial appearance of job candidates more when looking for a sociable (vs. moral or competent) employee (Study 2, n = 390), and they view reliance on facial appearance when making hiring decisions as more appropriate and more effective when looking for a sociable (vs. moral or competent) employee (Study 3, n = 519). Together, our results provide converging evidence that people view facial appearance as especially relevant for judging a person’s sociability.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPsyArXiv Preprints
Number of pages27
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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