Dr Alex Jones, a Senior Lecturer in Psychology, is undertaking new research in the field of face perception, from evolutionary and social perspectives. He explains: “Growing up, we’re often told to never judge a book by its cover. The idea that our character can be inferred from our appearance is a controversial one, and certainly not something we should do. The truth is that we judge people on the way they look all the time, especially from their faces. These judgments are unconscious and automatic, despite the protests that we should not make them! Why do they persist?
The faces below do not belong to real people but are instead composites of different individuals. The people who make up the left face are highly extroverted – they like to talk to more people at parties. Those who make up the right face are introverts, preferring an evening in with a good book. People with similar personality types, on average, look similar. To some extent, we can infer character from just a face.
I have spent my career studying the links between facial appearance and social traits. I have investigated how colouration in our skin is linked to our health, how differences between men and women’s faces is a simple matter of contrast, how depression and autism are etched onto our faces, and how cosmetics manipulate facial appearance to change social perceptions.
Over the past few years, I have worked on a number of funded projects that have investigated the correlations between appearance and aspects of health. With Welsh Crucible, I examined how the faces of runners were linked with their cardiovascular performance and running ability, and with funding from Cherish-DE I built a database of identical twins, illustrating the differences between individuals from their health measures. More recently I have been adopting data science and machine learning techniques in conjunction with local industry partners to derive associations between appearance and cosmetic concerns, with a view to developing applied products.
Our faces are the most important part of our social world, and the amount of information they convey about us go beyond simple expression. Your face really does say it all.”