About Face: How First Impressions Fool Us

Our faces broadcast information about us: whether we’re smart, warm, trustworthy. How do these signals influence decision-making – and are they accurate? Psychologist Alexander Todorov discusses the science behind face value.


Berry, D. S., & Zebrowitz-McArthur, L. (1988). What’s in a face? Facial maturity and the attribution of legal responsibility. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14(1), 23-33.

Maoz, I. (2012). The face of the enemy: The effect of press-reported visual information regarding the facial features of opponent politicians on support for peace. Political Communication, 29(3), 243-256.

Todorov, A., Mandisodza, A. N., Goren, A., & Hall, C. C. (2005). Inferences of competence from faces predict election outcomes. Science, 308(5728), 1623-1626.

Todorov, A., Pakrashi, M., & Oosterhof, N.N. (2009). Evaluating faces on trustworthiness after minimal time exposure. Social Cognition, 27(6), 813-833.


About Face was created and developed by Mahzarin Banaji and Olivia Kang with funding from PwC and Harvard University.

Narration by Olivia Kang, featuring Professor Alexander Todorov (Princeton University)

Camera & Editing by Evan Younger

Face images and demonstrations courtesy of Alexander Todorov, Social Perception Lab, Princeton University

Music by Olive Musique, Brightside Studio, & Alex Messier via Premium Beat

Stock footage via iStock.com

Artwork by Olivia Kang

Research Assistant: Timothy Carroll