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From facial characteristics to social judgments - Towards a comprehensive conceptual model of impression formation based on face perception

English title From facial characteristics to social judgments - Towards a comprehensive conceptual model of impression formation based on face perception
Applicant Vetter Thomas
Number 135213
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Fachbereich Informatik Departement Mathematik und Informatik Universität Basel
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.06.2011 - 31.05.2016
Approved amount 412'783.00
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Keywords (4)

person perception; faces; statistical models; personality

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary

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.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Changing the personality of a face: Perceived Big Two and Big Five personality factors modeled in real photographs
Walker Mirella, Vetter Thomas (2016), Changing the personality of a face: Perceived Big Two and Big Five personality factors modeled in real photographs, in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(4), 609-624.
Faced with exclusion: Perceived facial warmth and competence influence moral judgments of social exclusion.
Rudert S. C. Reutner L. Greifeneder R. & Walker M., Faced with exclusion: Perceived facial warmth and competence influence moral judgments of social exclusion., in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Angewandte Sozialpsychologie und Entscheidungsforschung, Universität Köln Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Dietrich College Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Alex Todorov Lab / Princeton University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Social Cognitive and Neural Sciences Lab, New York University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Invited talk at the Universität des Saarlandes Talk given at a conference Eindrucksbildung anhand von Gesichtern – Bildung, Validierung und Anwendung statistischer Gesichtermodelle. 09.06.2016 Saarbrücken, Germany Walker Mirella;
17th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Poster Cold shoulders to cold faces? Facial appearance influences moral judgments of social exclusion. 28.01.2016 San Diego, United States of America Greifeneder Rainer; Walker Mirella;
17th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Poster The Basel Face Database 28.01.2016 San Diego, United States of America Walker Mirella; Vetter Thomas; Greifeneder Rainer;
17th ESCON Transfer of Knowledge Conference Talk given at a conference Giving the cold shoulder to the cold-looking person: Moral acceptance of social exclusion based on facial characteristics. 27.08.2015 Bensheim, Germany Walker Mirella; Greifeneder Rainer;
16th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Talk given at a conference Statistical models of perceived Big Two and Big Five personality factors applied to real faces 27.02.2015 Long Beach, United States of America Walker Mirella;
ESCON Transfer of Knowledge Conference Talk given at a conference Changing the personality of a face. Applying statistical models of personality traits to real faces 03.09.2014 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium Vetter Thomas; Walker Mirella;
17th EASP General Meeting Talk given at a conference The power of faces in first impressions – and beyond 09.07.2014 Amsterdam, Netherlands Vetter Thomas; Walker Mirella;
15th Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Poster Two kinds of looking guilty: Criminal appearance and a lack of remorse affect guilt and punishment ratings differently 13.02.2014 Austin, United States of America Walker Mirella;
13th Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society Talk given at a conference A novel statistical model of face perception 11.09.2013 Basel, Switzerland Walker Mirella; Vetter Thomas;
13th Congress of the Swiss Psychological Society Talk given at a conference Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most likeable of all? A novel method to measure self-enhancement regarding diverse personality dimensions 11.09.2013 Basel, Switzerland Walker Mirella; Keller Matthias;
14. Tagung der Fachgruppe für Sozialpsychologie Talk given at a conference Feminine-looking faces belong to warm and cheerful persons. The impact of subtle facial cues to femininity or masculinity on social judgments 01.09.2013 Hagen, Germany Walker Mirella;


Self-organised

Title Date Place

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Videointerview "Wie man Gesichter mithilfe von Computern vertrauenswürdiger machen kann" Uni Basel Öffentlichkeitsarbeit German-speaking Switzerland 2015
Talks/events/exhibitions Weltenreise - Vom Gesicht zur Identität German-speaking Switzerland 2014

Awards

Title Year
Young Scientist Award from the Swiss Psychological Society (SSP SGP) 2011

Abstract

People draw personality trait inferences about unfamiliar individuals on the basis of their facial appearance. These inferences are usually inaccurate. Therefore, they are labeled as perceptual illusions, having their origin in face overgeneralization effects (Montepare & Dobisch, 2003; Zebrowitz, Fellous, Mignault, & Andreoletti, 2003) and stereotyping (Hoffman & Hurst, 1990; Montepare & Zebrowitz McArthur, 1998; Sczesny & Kühnen, 2004). How-ever, these inferences affect face memory and predict social behavior in different domains such as hiring decisions, election outcomes, eye-witness testimonies, and criminal sentencing. Surprisingly little is known about the specific physical characteristics underlying these social judgments. Some research has been done on how facial information is related to perceptions of attractiveness and to categorization by age, gender, ethnicity, and emotional states. Recently, first steps have been undertaken to investigate the role of specific facial characteristics underlying per-sonality trait judgments with the help of statistical face models. In one approach different personality trait judg-ments were reduced to the two dimensions explaining most variance in these judgments, namely valence and domi-nance (Oosterhof & Todorov, 2008). Another approach differentiated between different personality trait judgments such as aggressiveness or trustworthiness, and manipulated them separately in photographs of faces (Walker & Vetter, 2009). Both approaches have been successful in modeling personality traits in faces in that a high degree of inter-personal consensus in forming these judgments was achieved. However, there are also inter-individual differ-ences 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). The proposed 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 the framework of a comprehensive conceptual model. The identification of specific facial characteristics underlying different personality trait judgments will result in an enriched statistical face model. This model is highly flexible and is able to generate fully controlled and natural-looking variations of any individual face, differing only with respect to certain personality traits that are ascribed to the depicted individual. The possibility of manipulating the personality traits ascribed to individuals on the basis of their faces, independent of identity information, allows for addressing many research questions in different fields of psychology for the first time. Moreover, judges’ character-istics, such as their motives or their own physical appearance, will be investigated as sources of inter-individual consensus and dissent in forming personality trait judgments in a direct comparison. Finally, having identified judges’ gender role attitudes as a potential additional source of consensus and dissent for social judgments based on faces, we will therefore investigate their impact on likeability and other trait inferences based on faces signaling gender norm violations.
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