‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ we’re advised – but can you ever work out things about someone just by looking at their face?
Actually, yes, according to some recent scientific studies – with both bone structure and ‘resting’ facial expressions often revealing more than we’d like.
Surprisingly, a still image of someone’s face could offer a way to work out some highly private things about them – from their bank balance to their criminal record.
Here’s some of the things which your face might be giving away.
Your expression tells people if you’re rich or poor
Your ‘resting’ facial expression tells people how rich you are – with volunteers able to work out from still images whether someone is rich or not.
Student volunteers were asked to rate images to see if people were rich or poor – with household incomes under £46k classed as poor and above £77k classed as rich.
The volunteers at Toronto University were able to distinguish ‘rich’ images from ‘poor’ images, the researchers said.
‘Something as subtle as the signals in your face about your social class can actually then perpetuate it,’ said Thora Bjornsdottir of Toronto University.
‘Those first impressions can become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s going to influence your interactions, and the opportunities you have.’
Your bone structure can give away if you’re a criminal
A recent – and controversial – scientific paper claims that certain tell-tale features give away whether someone is more likely to be a criminal.
Specifically, people with small mouths, curvy upper lips and close-set eyes are more likely to be criminals, according to computer analysis by Shanghai Jiao Tong University researchers.
The researchers singled out the features and analysed 1,856 faces of Chinese men aged 18 to 55 – 730 of whom were criminals.
Using a machine learning algorithm, the researchers found that the four ‘classifiers’ could be used to pinpoint criminals by computers.
The researchers say, ‘ ‘All four classifiers perform consistently well and produce evidence for the validity of automated face-induced inference on criminality, despite the historical controversy surrounding the topic.
Big cheekbones could mean you’re untrustworthy
Men with big, noticeable cheekbones might be attractive – but they are also less trustworthy, at least according to one University of St Andrews study.
There’s a solid reason behind it – wider cheekbones form in puberty, and are an indicator of high testosterone levels.
This can mean that men are more aggressive, and less likely to play by the rules.
In experiments by the St Andrews researchers, men with wider cheekbones were more likely to cheat at games.
Your face can give away if you’re an extrovert
A famous 1966 study found that faces can actually betray some elements of our personality – including whether we’re extroverted.
Experts at the University of Michigan asked volunteers to rate each other for personality traits while they sat in silence.
They found that for three traits – extroversion, conscientiousness and openness – the volunteers were significantly more accurate than random chance.
Could your face give away that you’re a paedophile?
This is highly controversial, but some researchers have suggested that paedophilia could be a biological problem, with physical manifestations.
Researchers at the University of Windsor in Canada, found that paedophiles are more likely to have minor physical abnormalities such as misshapen ears.
Previous research has found that paedophiles are more likely to be left-handed, shorter than average and have low IQs – lending weight to the idea that there is a biological basis to the condition.
‘Evidence is steadily accumulating to support a neurodevelopmental basis of pedophilia,’ said Fiona Dyshniku of the University of Windsor in Canada.
‘If we find that paedophilia has a biological basis, with a very early, even prenatal onset, this will influence and hopefully improve methods of treatment for this group.’