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Study says which features of the face help shape a first impression

When you meet someone, a first impression is inevitable. A study published in the scientific journal Social Psychological and Personality Science sought to understand which features of the face help shape this first opinion. For this, researchers at the Free University of Amsterdam (Netherlands) analyzed a dataset with almost 600 faces.

Based on this dataset, in which people maintained a neutral expression, with a simple background, the researchers separated some characteristics:

  • attractiveness
  • Eccentricity
  • childhood
  • dominance
  • reliability

The sample also assessed the extent to which the faces suggested six emotional expressions:

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  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Rage
  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Surprise

Through machine learning, the researchers tested the importance of each of these characteristics, and found that the subtle indication of emotions was the best predictor for forming the first impression. According to the study, faces that indicate a happy expression convey more trustworthiness, while an angry expression indicates dominance, despite being associated with a negative impression.

The researchers cite a phenomenon called overgeneralization of emotions, which suggests that people are especially sensitive to reading emotions on other people’s faces, as they convey the most relevant social information. Because of this heightened sensitivity, people end up detecting emotions even in neutral faces.

Basically, our super-sensitive emotion detection system makes us “see things” in others’ faces, so even when a person isn’t sending any emotion signals, we can detect a smile simply because the corners of their mouth are tilted up slightly. , for example, what impacts the first impression.

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