New research to investigate how face-shape influences social stereotypes across the globe

The study will examine different perceptions of faces from across the globe

Researchers will examine how people across different world regions form stereotypical judgements based on facial appearance.

The perceptions we form about other people based on their facial appearance can influence important social outcomes, with people often preferring to date, hire, and vote for individuals perceived as being attractive.

Although research exists on the factors that influence social judgments of faces, the extent to which these differ across different world regions is unclear.

The 18-month project led by the University of Strathclyde will use existing data which assessed more than eleven thousand participants’ social judgments of faces across eleven world regions, including Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, The Middle East, and Western Europe.

Social judgements

The previous study was the first project to be conducted by the Psychological Science Accelerator, a distributed network of researchers from across the world who conduct large-scale democratically selected studies. It found that social judgments of faces were underpinned by trustworthiness and dominance and these results were highly consistent across world regions. Crucially, however, it did not investigate relationships between these perceptual dimensions and face-shape characteristics.

This new secondary analysis, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research & Innovation, will examine whether face-shape characteristics predict social judgments of faces consistently across world regions.

Ethnically diverse

Principal Investigator, Professor of Psychology Benedict Jones from the University of Strathclyde, said: “How people look can, unfortunately, affect how people treat them.

"While there’s been a lot of work done on how face shape influences how other people perceive us, it’s mostly been done in western countries with people judging white faces.

“This project examines perceivers from different parts of the world and uses an ethnically diverse set of faces, making the work much more inclusive and instructive.”

Great opportunity

Victor Shiramizu, also part of the research team at Strathclyde, added: “From previous work, we know a lot about how face shapes influence social stereotypes in western countries. This project is a great opportunity to establish whether those results hold across world regions or whether people in different parts of the world use face shape in different ways.”