Why your face really can determine your fortune

Research shows there are 13 main attributes people are most likely to spontaneously judge about a face.
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Research shows there are 13 main attributes people are most likely to spontaneously judge about a face.

The old adage may have it that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but ever since Aristotle first wrote about the art of physiognomy, people have thought it possible to deduce character traits from someone's facial features. Though dismissed as pseudoscience, perhaps there's a kernel of truth in the idea that someone's face can shape their destiny: A Princeton University study showed it takes us a tenth of a second to size up the cut of a stranger's jib and, rightly or wrongly, we react to them accordingly.

Hence, research suggests that those with what we perceive to be dominant faces (fuller jaws and thicker brows) are more likely to make CEO, that juries are more inclined to believe baby-faced men are not guilty of certain crimes, and that politicians with competent-looking faces (higher cheekbones and angular jaws) have a greater chance of being elected.

"It's all about perception, not actual behaviour, and of course much of this may be a self-fulfilling prophecy: that people who look competent are often given better jobs and then become more competent at them," explains Lisa DeBruine, who runs the Face Research Lab in the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, and studies how - and why - people respond differently to different face shapes.

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Clinton has been accused of having what was dubbed ''Resting Hillary Face'', for her tendency to let her disdain for her ...
POOL

Clinton has been accused of having what was dubbed ''Resting Hillary Face'', for her tendency to let her disdain for her opponent shine through on her face rather than in her speeches.

"Research shows there are 13 main attributes people are most likely to spontaneously judge about a face: aggressiveness, attractiveness, compassion, confidence, dominance, emotional stability, intelligence, meanness, responsibility, sociability, trustworthiness, happiness, and weirdness.

"But the way we perceive someone basically all boils down to how dominant or trustworthy we think they look. We automatically read facial cues to try to assess a person's desire to do us harm or good versus their ability to do so."

DeBruine maintains that - whatever those scientifically shaky "how to tell your personality from your face-shape" quizzes might have you believe - the width between a person's eyes or the shape of their chin won't actually tell you anything about their personality. But that doesn't stop our subconscious making snap judgements.

"Social conditioning plays a huge part in what we gauge from looking at someone, when all we have to go on is what we can immediately see," explains DeBruine. "So for most people, a competent-looking face looks trustworthy and dominant, but not too dominant. And we tend to associate competent faces with the kinds of people who are in charge in our society.

"But because men still tend to be at the top in the majority of industries, we also associate these attributes with masculinity. So as men naturally tend to have wider faces, fuller jaws, thicker brows which are closer to their eyes, and slightly lower hairlines than women, all these attributes are also associated with dominance.

"Meanwhile, women's eyes tend to be a bit rounder, and wider eyes tend to come across as more trustworthy."

So in order to appear dominant and competent, a politician seeking office - whether male or female - should ideally possess wide eyes, a strong jawline, a thick brow bone and a broad face? Delightful.

DeBruine also explores how the physical make-up of a politician's face can have a huge effect on how well they play with voters, even though it may bear no reflection of their abilities.

Though she won't be drawn on specific facial features of our leading political figures, she explains that competent-looking faces are less round, have less distance between eyes and eyebrows, have higher cheekbones and more angular jaws, and in general are more mature looking and attractive.

Too feminine-faced to play James Bond?  Lisa DeBruine, who runs the Face Research Lab in the Institute of Neuroscience ...
John Phillips

Too feminine-faced to play James Bond? Lisa DeBruine, who runs the Face Research Lab in the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, thinks so.

According to DeBruine, the kind of face which undecided voters are drawn to partly depends on how under threat they feel at the time of voting. "During wartime, people are looking for a dominant leader. Facial width is the simplest measure of how people perceive dominance, so a politician with a wider, more masculine face might be more successful than one with a narrow, more feminine face," she explains.

These stereotypes are currently being played out on the world stage, as Donald Trump seeks to convince the American people that the country is under attack and needs to be made great again.

So what does this mean for Hillary Clinton: caught in a catch-22 whereby she has to be seen to look dominant and competent, without eschewing her femininity.

After the first televised debate at the end of September, Clinton was accused of having what was dubbed ''Resting Hillary Face'', for her tendency to let her disdain for her opponent shine through on her face rather than in her speeches.

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A play on the term Resting B***h Face, applied to women who fail to look sunny 24/7, it is also, DeBruine explains, a label which tends only to be applied to women, whom society expect to appear warm and open.

Clinton can't win. Too stern, and she's seen as bossy and grumpy; too smiley and she's false or weak. "The trouble is, for women, looking more masculine also makes you look older, and age is not on Hillary's side in this election," says DeBruine. "One thing she does do is to open her eyes wider at certain points when she is talking because it makes her seem more trustworthy."

In tomorrow's final presidential debate before next month's election, Clinton will again be scrutinised for what the chairman of the Republican National Committee described as her "angry and defensive" face.

Though reluctant to predict which way the election might swing, one thing DeBruine can tell me with certainty is that Tom Hiddleston will not be playing 007 any time soon.

"Bond has always been super-masculine, with a typically dominant face shape. Tom Hiddleston has a much more feminine face, so science just wouldn't allow it to be him," she jokes.

"My money's on Idris Elba."

 - The Telegraph, London

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