In a recent Psychology Today article titled “What’s In a Face?,” writer Jena Pincott wrote, “Appearance predicts behavior in surprising ways — some of the time. The connection between looks and personality is the ultimate chicken-or-egg question. And it plays out on every face you meet.”
The article detailed an experiment given by psychologists Nalini Ambady, then at Tufts University, and Nicholas Rule, at the University of Toronto, in which volunteers accurately identified a certain religious group 60 percent of the time, admitting that while the study was not “foolproof,” it was “statistically significant.”
“The ability to quickly extract information from faces has given us an edge in predicting character and behavior,” Pincott wrote. “It helps us to discern who’s sick and whom to trust, who’s flirtworthy, and who might blow up at a moment’s notice. To get a sense of others’ religiosity, sexual orientation, promiscuity, aggressiveness, competence, intelligence, and even trustworthiness, you might think that you should focus on how they act, not how they look. But then you’d neglect your swiftest insights.
“Snap judgments about faces are not fail-safe, but they are far too accurate to ignore, especially in moments when danger may loom. And the consistent above-chance rate (often 60 percent or higher) at which we correctly extrapolate character traits from facial features taps into core questions of identity.”
In the subheading, “Beyond the Halo Effect: Attractiveness and Personality,” the article stated, “Testosterone and estrogen influence facial development as well as behavior. High testosterone shows itself in strong jawbones, darker coloring, and hollower cheekbones. High estrogen reveals itself in smooth skin, a small chin, sparse facial hair, arched eyebrows, and plump lips.”
A study at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland was cited in which “volunteers of both genders could tell, with above-chance accuracy, whether people were promiscuous just by looking at photos of their faces.”
In another study on the accuracy of inferences about criminality based on facial appearance at Cornell University, psychologist Jeffrey Valla and his colleagues set out to test just how readily people can spot criminals based on facial features alone. They prepared several expressionless headshots of clean-shaven Caucasian men in their 20s and asked volunteers to identify the murderers, rapists, thieves, forgers, drug dealers and so on. According to the report, men and women alike could distinguish convicts from noncriminals with above-chance accuracy.
Is it really possible to infer character from physical features? Do individuals with attractive personalities develop a more attractive appearance? You decide. We do know this: Looks can be deceiving. You cannot judge a book by its cover. Well, not always. Why? Because people are individuals. Not all beautiful women and handsome men are promiscuous. Not all unsavory faces reveal criminals. Everyone smiling on the outside is not happy on the inside. We know this. Looks can be deceiving.
When God’s prophet Samuel was sent to anoint Israel’s next king, Samuel found himself leaning in favor of the appearance of David’s brother, Eliab. However, 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord told him, ‘Samuel, don’t think Eliab is the one just because he’s tall and handsome. He isn’t the one I’ve chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.’” — Contemporary English Version
God has an ability no human has — the ability to read hearts and know everything inside a person, including their reasoning, motives and desires. At best, we can listen to what people say, read their body language, watch their behavior and make an educated guess on who they really are.
But our Creator also gave us something else — instincts. Experts in the field of facial appearance research say we should not dismiss our instincts, especially if our safety and well-being are at risk. At the same time we are advised to withhold hasty judgments when dealing with individuals depending on the circumstances and groups we are in.
True Christians keep in mind that no matter how we look, people can choose how they act, whether it molds their outward appearance or not. As Jesus said at Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.” — New Living Translation.
While it is ultimately what we do — not how we look — that defines us in the eyes of God, and we, as humans, are in no position to judge the motives of others, we have also been given five senses as well as our common sense and instincts in dealing with others.
It may be wise, therefore, not to dismiss this interesting information on face value alone.