The data indicate we make judgments
along two lines: whether the person should be approached or avoided and
whether he or she is weak or strong. In order to make these
determinations, we must also calculate dependability and dominance.
A face we can trust has a U-shaped mouth
and eyes that form a somewhat surprised look. An untrustworthy face has
angry features, with the edges of the mouth curled down and eyebrows
pointing down at the center.
The least dominant faces resemble those
of a baby; there is an unusually wide distance between the eyes and
between the eyebrows. The dominant face has the reverse features, while
a threatening kisser combines both untrustworthy and dominant traits.
Research co-leader Alexander Todorov has
spent years studying facial features. “Humans seem to be wired to look
at faces to understand the person’s intentions,” he states. “People are
always asking themselves, ‘Does this person have good or bad
Other than plastic surgery, we have no
control over our faces, but we can control our voluntary expressions.
This study has important implications, especially for those who work in
settings that offer extensive contact with people such as sales,
education, politics and criminal justice. We should be more aware of
the powerful messages we are constantly sending, because our facial
reactions can impact our social, family and work relationships.