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.

You've learned the bias...
now outsmart your mind.

References

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.

Credits

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

© 2017 President and Fellows of Harvard College