Let's face it... what you see could well be what you get

February 17, 2006

People perceive facial features to be an indicator of personality, especially when looking for a partner, according to research.

Psychologists and biologists at Durham, St Andrews and Liverpool universities have found that most people are attracted not only to partners who look like themselves but to those who look as if their personalities are similar.

Two studies in which men and women were asked to rate photographs of people of the opposite sex by attractiveness and personality traits found that they were most likely to prefer those who matched themselves physically and in their perceived persona. Even when researchers took age and attractiveness into account, people were influenced by characteristics in faces they perceived as showing openness, neuroticism, extroversion or conscientiousness.

People attribute personality types to features: smiling is seen as sociable; large open eyes denote alertness; small hooded eyes are seen as betraying a lack of imagination; high foreheads are perceived as a sign of intelligence, while youthful looks can convey naivety and innocence.

An analysis of the personality traits that appeared to be shown in the faces of married couples found that the longer people had been together, the more they looked like each other. This may reflect couples growing more similar in apparent personality over time, or that those appearing alike in personality stay together longer.

Researcher Tony Little, a biology lecturer at Liverpool, said: "It could be something to do with shared experiences and personality traits and the way these are reflected in our faces, such as laughter lines in the faces of couples who laugh a lot together."

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Artist Frank Boelter sitting in life-size paper boat

Creator of crowdfunding teaching tool says entrepreneurship courses should drop the traditional business plan as a method of assessment

Man photocopying a book

Students think it ‘unfair’ to be punished for unintentional plagiarism

Child drives miniature car into people

Smaller, newer alternative providers are less likely to pass higher education review, analysis says

to write students’ assessed essays in return for cash

Vic Boyd was on the lookout for academic writing opportunities. What she found was somewhat less appetising...

A baby in a bag

Trends in international mobility may explain why fewer women are reaching the top ranks of academia, a Spanish study suggests