First impressions count: how people make snap judgements based on your profile picture

New study links certain facial features to three perceived social qualities including 'dominance', 'approachability' and 'attractiveness'

When it comes to making snap judgments about people based on their faces it turns out that as a species we’re remarkably consistent: certain jaw lines or smiles really do make people think someone is more controlling or approachable, even though these traits might not be borne out in reality.

To find out how facial features influence first impressions, researchers from the University of York created a database of cartoon faces based and used mathematical models to measure and tweak 65 different factors - everything from eyebrow length to jaw shape.

They then asked volunteers to rate the faces based on three ‘core’ social factors: attractiveness ("Would this person be a good romantic partner?"), dominance ("Are they capable of carrying out those intentions?") and approachability ("Will this person help me or harm me?")

They found that certain physical features could strongly predict peoples’ judgements. For example large eyes were associated with attractiveness, masculine facial features with social dominance and a big smile with approachability.

University of York neuroscientist and senior author of the paper Dr Tom Hartley said that these associations were not surprising in themselves but that the consistency of people’s reactions could be important in a world where first impressions are increasingly based on profile pictures on the likes of Tinder and LinkedIn.

The findings of a University of York study published last month The cartoon faces used by the researchers to predict snap judgements. Image: PNAS “It might be problematic if we're forming these kind of judgements based on these rather fleeting impressions," Dr Hartley told the BBC, "particularly in today's world where we only might see one picture of a face, on social media, and have to form our impression based on that."

He added that the findings could also be beneficial to people looking to put their best face forward in business or in socializing.

“You would be able to use these kind of numbers to decide when is a good time to take a photograph, or maybe to choose the photograph that's really optimal in putting forward the best possible impression - and you might want to put forward different kinds of social impressions in different situations."

Unfortunately, just because people tend to judge people based on their faces in predictable ways, it doesn’t mean that their judgements are any good. Although some studies have found certain features that seem to predict personality traits (men with wider faces are more likely to cheat and lie for example) there are no grand formulas that definitively link appearance and personality.

So if you want people to think you're a more approachable person by all means give a big smile in that photo - but don't expect anyone grinning at you in Tinder to be a sweetheart when you meet them in real life.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence