Can you tell if someone is a Republican or Democrat just by looking at their face?Here we found that individuals' political affiliations could be accurately discerned from their faces. In Study 1, perceivers were able to accurately distinguish whether U.S. Senate candidates were either Democrats or Republicans based on photos of their faces. Study 2 showed that these effects extended to Democrat and Republican college students, based on their senior yearbook photos. Study 3 then showed that these judgments were related to differences in perceived traits among the Democrat and Republican faces. Republicans were perceived as more powerful than Democrats. Moreover, as individual targets were perceived to be more powerful, they were more likely to be perceived as Republicans by others. Similarly, as individual targets were perceived to be warmer, they were more likely to be perceived as Democrats... These data suggest that perceivers' beliefs about who is a Democrat and Republican may be based on perceptions of traits stereotypically associated with the two political parties and that, indeed, the guidance of these stereotypes may lead to categorizations of others' political affiliations at rates significantly more accurate than chance guessing.
Source: Democrats and Republicans Can Be Differentiated from Their Faces. PLoS ONE 5(1): e8733.
Can you tell if a man is dangerous just by looking at his face?Now some of the "new physiognomists" are resurrecting an old claim: that you can gauge a man's penchant for aggression by the cut of his jib. Last fall University of California-Santa Barbara psychologist Aaron Sell reported that college students could accurately estimate the upper body strength of unfamiliar men after viewing their faces alone. (The men's necks were obscured.) The students did equally well with fellow undergraduates and men from South American indigenous groups—all of whom had had their strength measured using gym equipment. Interestingly, the toughest-looking undergrads also reported getting in the most fights. Another study by Sell suggests that such formidable men are more prone to use violence—or advocate military action—to resolve conflicts.
So which features might hint at belligerence? Sell suspects the brow ridge and jaw, two structures that are shaped by testosterone in puberty. (High testosterone has been linked with masculine looks as well as with aggression.) Other scientists propose a different measure: the width-to-height ratio of the face, as measured from cheek to cheek and lip to brow. Last year, a team of Canadian psychologists showed that men with wider faces (think Ernie) score higher in lab tests of aggression than slender-faced men (think Bert). They also found that wide-faced hockey players rack up more penalty minutes. Now, two studies in Psychological Science—one from August and another forthcoming—reinforce the notion that stout-faced men appear tougher and are more likely to behave in aggressive and untrustworthy ways.
Scientists can read your face like a data-filled bookA study by Kaare Christensen of the University of Southern Denmark suggests people who look young for their age live longer: “Perceived age -- which is widely used by clinicians as a general indication of a patient’s health -- is a robust biomarker of ageing.”1
And a symmetrical face isn’t merely aesthetically pleasing; the journal Evolution and Human Behavior says it indicates someone who’s less likely to experience cognitive decline when they’re old.2
But what does a face tell us about someone’s personality? There are a number of characteristics where science suggests we should trust our instincts. A study at the University of Liverpool concludes: “Judges perform better than chance in guessing others’ personality, particularly for the traits conscientiousness and extraversion [sic]”.3
You should also trust yourself when judging whom not to trust, as a paper from the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences concludes: “The human mind might be capable of picking up on subtle visual cues that cheaters’ faces give off.”4
And before you cut that guy off in traffic, researchers at Brock University suggest you check howwide his face is: “The facial width-to-height ratio may be a cue used to predict propensity for aggression in others.”5