Who judges a book by its cover?

The prevalence, structure, and correlates of physiognomic beliefs

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Abstract

The question of whether personality can be inferred from faces is contentiously debated. We propose that, irrespective of the actual accuracy of trait inferences from faces, lay beliefs about the manifestation of personality traits in facial features (i.e., physiognomic beliefs) have important consequences for social cognition and behavior. In five studies (N = 3,861), we examine the prevalence, structure, and correlates of physiognomic beliefs. We find that belief in physiognomy is common among students (Study 1) and in a large, representative sample of the Dutch population (Study 2). Physiognomic beliefs are relatively stable over time and associated with an intuitive thinking style (Study 3). However, the strength of physiognomic beliefs varies across different personality dimensions: sociability is believed to be more reflected in facial appearance than morality or competence (Studies 1-5). Crucially, individual differences in belief strength predict how people form and use first impressions. People with stronger physiognomic beliefs are more confident in their trait inferences (Study 4) and rely more on them when making decisions (Study 5). Yet, this increased confidence is not explained by superior accuracy of personality inferences, and the endorsement of physiognomic beliefs is associated with overconfidence (Study 4). Overall, there is widespread belief in physiognomy among laypeople, and individual differences in belief strength relate to various social-cognitive processes and behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019

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Physiognomy
Individuality
Mental Competency

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title = "Who judges a book by its cover?: The prevalence, structure, and correlates of physiognomic beliefs",
abstract = "The question of whether personality can be inferred from faces is contentiously debated. We propose that, irrespective of the actual accuracy of trait inferences from faces, lay beliefs about the manifestation of personality traits in facial features (i.e., physiognomic beliefs) have important consequences for social cognition and behavior. In five studies (N = 3,861), we examine the prevalence, structure, and correlates of physiognomic beliefs. We find that belief in physiognomy is common among students (Study 1) and in a large, representative sample of the Dutch population (Study 2). Physiognomic beliefs are relatively stable over time and associated with an intuitive thinking style (Study 3). However, the strength of physiognomic beliefs varies across different personality dimensions: sociability is believed to be more reflected in facial appearance than morality or competence (Studies 1-5). Crucially, individual differences in belief strength predict how people form and use first impressions. People with stronger physiognomic beliefs are more confident in their trait inferences (Study 4) and rely more on them when making decisions (Study 5). Yet, this increased confidence is not explained by superior accuracy of personality inferences, and the endorsement of physiognomic beliefs is associated with overconfidence (Study 4). Overall, there is widespread belief in physiognomy among laypeople, and individual differences in belief strength relate to various social-cognitive processes and behaviors.",
author = "Bastian Jaeger and Anthony Evans and M. Stel and {van Beest}, Ilja",
year = "2019",
language = "English",
type = "WorkingPaper",

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T1 - Who judges a book by its cover?

T2 - The prevalence, structure, and correlates of physiognomic beliefs

AU - Jaeger, Bastian

AU - Evans, Anthony

AU - Stel, M.

AU - van Beest, Ilja

PY - 2019

Y1 - 2019

N2 - The question of whether personality can be inferred from faces is contentiously debated. We propose that, irrespective of the actual accuracy of trait inferences from faces, lay beliefs about the manifestation of personality traits in facial features (i.e., physiognomic beliefs) have important consequences for social cognition and behavior. In five studies (N = 3,861), we examine the prevalence, structure, and correlates of physiognomic beliefs. We find that belief in physiognomy is common among students (Study 1) and in a large, representative sample of the Dutch population (Study 2). Physiognomic beliefs are relatively stable over time and associated with an intuitive thinking style (Study 3). However, the strength of physiognomic beliefs varies across different personality dimensions: sociability is believed to be more reflected in facial appearance than morality or competence (Studies 1-5). Crucially, individual differences in belief strength predict how people form and use first impressions. People with stronger physiognomic beliefs are more confident in their trait inferences (Study 4) and rely more on them when making decisions (Study 5). Yet, this increased confidence is not explained by superior accuracy of personality inferences, and the endorsement of physiognomic beliefs is associated with overconfidence (Study 4). Overall, there is widespread belief in physiognomy among laypeople, and individual differences in belief strength relate to various social-cognitive processes and behaviors.

AB - The question of whether personality can be inferred from faces is contentiously debated. We propose that, irrespective of the actual accuracy of trait inferences from faces, lay beliefs about the manifestation of personality traits in facial features (i.e., physiognomic beliefs) have important consequences for social cognition and behavior. In five studies (N = 3,861), we examine the prevalence, structure, and correlates of physiognomic beliefs. We find that belief in physiognomy is common among students (Study 1) and in a large, representative sample of the Dutch population (Study 2). Physiognomic beliefs are relatively stable over time and associated with an intuitive thinking style (Study 3). However, the strength of physiognomic beliefs varies across different personality dimensions: sociability is believed to be more reflected in facial appearance than morality or competence (Studies 1-5). Crucially, individual differences in belief strength predict how people form and use first impressions. People with stronger physiognomic beliefs are more confident in their trait inferences (Study 4) and rely more on them when making decisions (Study 5). Yet, this increased confidence is not explained by superior accuracy of personality inferences, and the endorsement of physiognomic beliefs is associated with overconfidence (Study 4). Overall, there is widespread belief in physiognomy among laypeople, and individual differences in belief strength relate to various social-cognitive processes and behaviors.

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BT - Who judges a book by its cover?

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