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.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam