When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Science Has Identified The Features Of A Trustworthy Face

Look closely...
Look closely...
Markus C. Schulte von Drach

BERLIN - Can we draw conclusions about another person’s character traits based on their facial or body features? We have a tendency to base ourselves on outer appearance when forming first impressions of other people.

Studies have shown that the shape of a face plays a role in our perception of how trustworthy somebody is. British psychologists reported that men with wide faces tended to abuse the trust of other test subjects more than men with narrow faces. The mistrust of other test subjects toward the wide-faced subjects was also greater from the onset.

And now Czech researchers have confirmed those results. They found that the shape of a face plays a role in our judgment of someone’s character – but also facial expression and eye color. Men with blue eyes, write Karel Kleisner of Charles University in Prague and his colleagues in the online scientific journal Plos One, come across as less trustworthy than men with brown eyes.

In an earlier study, the Czech scientists had shown that brown eyes – in men – often went with a certain shape of face that people tend to associate with happy and trustworthy people. Blue eyes on the other hand often go hand in hand with male faces that appear angry, and hence less trustworthy.

Based on this, the psychologists hypothesized that there were significant correlations between face shape and eye color and that brown-eyed individuals were perceived as more trustworthy than blue-eyed ones. This was the basic idea the present study set out to examine, while also examining if eye color alone plays a role in the impression we have of others.

To carry out the study, researchers showed students neutral photographs of 40 male students and 40 female students between the ages of 19-26 and asked them to rate the faces as more or less trustworthy. Those in the pictures were young adults with blue or brown eyes.

Unfortunately the study does not include exactly how many people took part in the test. Kleisner and his colleagues first say that the photographs were rated by "238 participants (142 females and 98 males)." They then go on to say: "Out of a total of 248 raters, 105 judged trustworthiness, 103 attractiveness, and 30 dominance. The raters differed in eye color: 99 had blue; 61 green; and 78 brown eyes." That makes 238, then 240, then 248, and back to 238. It can only be hoped that the discrepancies are typos, and that the statistical information was correctly calculated.

In any case, the psychologists report that: "All raters, irrespective of their own eye color, perceived the brown-eyed faces as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones."

The researchers also confirmed a strong correlation between eye color and facial shape. Blue-eyed men with oval faces with a longer chin and smaller mouth, relatively small eyes and fairly widely separated eyebrows were perceived as less trustworthy than brown-eyed men with a broader chin, bigger mouth, bigger nose, and prominent eyebrows that were closer together.

Judging a book by its cover

To see if eye color alone played a role, the researchers changed the eye color on the photographs of the men and showed them to 106 test subjects. This time there was no difference for blue or brown eyes: facial shape was the determining factor.

The psychologists conclude that "although the brown-eyed faces were perceived as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones, it was not brown eye color per se that caused the stronger perception of trustworthiness but rather the facial features associated with brown eyes." Why there is an apparent relationship between eye color and facial shape is still unclear.

Despite these results, attempts in daily life to draw conclusions from the shape of peoples’ faces and their eye color are best left alone. It is true that a series of studies has shown that when we meet somebody for the first time, we often do identify character traits within seconds. British psychologists David Perett and Anthony Little demonstrated that in their study of students who were instantly gauged as for example conscientious, or extraverted.

But these studies do nothing more than give indications of possible leads – nothing more. A person’s character is formed genetically and apparently also by the influence of hormones in the mother’s womb. A major role in the formation of a personality is also played by a person’s experiences, particularly those made in the various stages of childhood socialization – and those aren’t reflected in the shape of a face. The old chestnut “Don't judge a book by its cover” is particularly relevant here.

Anybody who fails to take this into account runs the risk of repeating mistakes made by scientists who have in the past tried through systematic observation to link body features with character. In the 18th century, Swiss pastor Johann Caspar Lavater came up with his popular theory of physiognomy so ridiculed by his contemporary, physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.

In the 19th century, Italian doctor Cesare Lombroso also missed the mark when he tried to identify and catalogue typical body traits of “born criminals.” The Nazis later used his work to justify the persecution, forced sterilization and euthanasia of criminals.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGOTikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest