People draw personality trait inferences about unfamiliar individuals on the basis of their facial appearance. These inferences are often inaccurate. However, they affect face memory and predict social behavior in different domains such as hiring decisions, election outcomes, eyewitness testimonies, and criminal sentencing. Recently, first steps have been undertaken to investigate the role of specific facial characteristics underlying personality trait judgments with the help of statistical face models (Oosterhof & Todorov, 2008; Walker & Vetter, 2009). Both approaches have been successful in modeling personality traits in faces in that a high degree of interpersonal consensus in forming these judgments was achieved. However, there are also inter-individual differences in forming personality trait judgments on the basis of facial appearance. Sources of dissent among judges are, for example, self-resemblance, resemblance of stimulus faces to familiar persons, or judge’s gender, and motives (Zebrowitz, Voinescu, & Collins, 1996).
This project aims at investigating how personality trait judgments are formed on the basis of faces from two perspectives: First, we will focus on stimulus characteristics, that is, we will use a newly developed statistical face model to identify the physiognomic correlates of a wide range of personality trait judgments. Second, we will focus on judges’ characteristics and investigate different sources of inter-individual consensus and dissent in direct comparison.
By bringing together approaches and methods from social psychology and computer graphics and vision, we are able to investigate the processes of impression formation on the basis of facial features in a comprehensive way. This project will not only result in new findings regarding physiognomic correlates of personality trait judgments and inter-individual sources of consensus and dissent on social judgments, but also in more precise personality trait vectors that can be used in future research in different psychological fields, such as social cognition, social neuroscience, or the media psychology.