Findings

In Your Face

Kevin Lewis

January 21, 2010

Democrats and Republicans Can Be Differentiated from Their Faces

Nicholas Rule & Nalini Ambady
PLoS ONE, January 2010, e8733

Background: Individuals' faces communicate a great deal of information about them. Although some of this information tends to be perceptually obvious (such as race and sex), much of it is perceptually ambiguous, without clear or obvious visual cues.

Methodology/Principal Findings: Here we found that individuals' political affiliations could be accurately discerned from their faces. In Study 1, perceivers were able to accurately distinguish whether U.S. Senate candidates were either Democrats or Republicans based on photos of their faces. Study 2 showed that these effects extended to Democrat and Republican college students, based on their senior yearbook photos. Study 3 then showed that these judgments were related to differences in perceived traits among the Democrat and Republican faces. Republicans were perceived as more powerful than Democrats. Moreover, as individual targets were perceived to be more powerful, they were more likely to be perceived as Republicans by others. Similarly, as individual targets were perceived to be warmer, they were more likely to be perceived as Democrats.

Conclusions/Significance: These data suggest that perceivers' beliefs about who is a Democrat and Republican may be based on perceptions of traits stereotypically associated with the two political parties and that, indeed, the guidance of these stereotypes may lead to categorizations of others' political affiliations at rates significantly more accurate than chance guessing.

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Evaluating Faces on Trustworthiness After Minimal Time Exposure

Alexander Todorov, Manish Pakrashi & Nikolaas Oosterhof
Social Cognition, December 2009, Pages 813-833

Abstract:
Previous studies have shown that trustworthiness judgments from facial appearance approximate general valence evaluation of faces (Oosterhof & Todorov, 2008) and are made after as little as 100 ms exposure to novel faces (Willis & Todorov, 2006). In Experiment 1, using better masking procedures and shorter exposures, we replicate the latter findings. In Experiment 2, we systematically manipulate the exposure to faces and show that a sigmoid function almost perfectly describes how judgments change as a function of time exposure. The agreement of these judgments with time-unconstrained judgments is above chance after 33 ms, improves with additional exposure, and does not improve with exposures longer than 167 ms. In Experiment 3, using a priming paradigm, we show that effects of face trustworthiness are detectable even when the faces are presented below the threshold of objective awareness as measured by a forced choice recognition test of the primes. The findings suggest that people automatically make valence/trustworthiness judgments from facial appearance.

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Fooled by First Impressions? Reexamining the Diagnostic Value of Appearance-Based Inferences

Christopher Olivola & Alexander Todorov
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
We often form opinions about the characteristics of others from single, static samples of their appearance --the very first thing we see when, or even before, we meet them. These inferences occur spontaneously, rapidly, and can impact decisions in a variety of important domains. A crucial question, then, is whether appearance-based inferences are accurate. Using a naturalistic data set of more than 1 million appearance-based judgments obtained from a popular website (Study 1) and data from an online experiment involving over a thousand participants (Study 2), we evaluate the ability of human judges to infer the characteristics of others from their appearances. We find that judges are generally less accurate at predicting characteristics than they would be if they ignored appearance cues and instead only relied on their knowledge of characteristic base-rate frequencies. The findings suggest that appearances are overweighed in judgments and can have detrimental effects on accuracy. We conclude that future research should (i) identify the specific visual cues that people use when they draw inferences from appearances, (ii) determine which of these cues promote or hinder accurate social judgments, and (iii) examine how inference goals and contexts moderate the use and diagnostic validity of these cues.

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Heritability of the Specific Cognitive Ability of Face Perception

Qi Zhu, Yiying Song, Siyuan Hu, Xiaobai Li, Moqian Tian, Zonglei Zhen, Qi Dong, Nancy Kanwisher & Jia Liu
Current Biology, forthcoming

Abstract:
What makes one person socially insightful but mathematically challenged, and another musically gifted yet devoid of a sense of direction? Individual differences in general cognitive ability are thought to be mediated by "generalist genes" that affect many cognitive abilities similarly without specific genetic influences on particular cognitive abilities. In contrast, we present here evidence for cognitive "specialist genes": monozygotic twins are more similar than dizygotic twins in the specific cognitive ability of face perception. Each of three measures of face-specific processing was heritable, i.e., more correlated in monozygotic than dizygotic twins: face-specific recognition ability, the face-inversion effect, and the composite-face effect. Crucially, this effect is due to the heritability of face processing in particular, not to a more general aspect of cognition such as IQ or global attention. Thus, individual differences in at least one specific mental talent are independently heritable. This finding raises the question of what other specific cognitive abilities are independently heritable and may elucidate the mechanisms by which heritable disorders like dyslexia and autism can have highly uneven cognitive profiles in which some mental processes can be selectively impaired while others remain unaffected or even selectively enhanced.

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Bring It On: Angry Facial Expressions Potentiate Approach-Motivated Motor Behavior

Benjamin Wilkowski & Brian Meier
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Although many psychological models suggest that human beings are invariably motivated to avoid negative stimuli, more recent theories suggest that people are frequently motivated to approach angering social challenges in order to confront and overcome them. To examine these models, the current investigation sought to determine whether angry facial expressions potentiate approach-motivated motor behaviors. Across 3 studies, individuals were faster to initiate approach movements toward angry facial expressions than to initiate avoidance movements away from such facial expressions. This approach advantage differed significantly from participants' responses to both emotionally neutral (Studies 1 & 3) and fearful (Study 2) facial expressions. Furthermore, this pattern was most apparent when physical approach appeared to be effective in overcoming the social challenge posed by angry facial expressions (Study 3). The results are discussed in terms of the processes underlying anger-related approach motivation and the conditions under which they are likely to arise.

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Implicit learning of social predictions

Erin Heerey & Hemma Velani
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Humans exchange a range of nonverbal social signals in every interaction. It is an open question whether people use these signals, consciously or unconsciously, to guide social behavior. This experiment directly tested whether participants could learn to predict another person's behavior using nonverbal cues in a single interaction, and whether explicit knowledge of the cue-outcome relationship was necessary for successful prediction. Participants played a computerized game of rock-paper-scissors against an avatar they believed was another participant. Sometimes the avatar generated a predictive facial cue before the play. On these trials, participants' win frequency increased over time, even if they did not acquire explicit knowledge of the predictive cue. The degree to which participants could predict the avatar (wins on cued trials) related to their self-reported liking of the avatar. These findings demonstrate the importance of implicit associative learning mechanisms in guiding social behavior on a moment-to-moment basis during interaction.

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What's so scary about needles and knives? Examining the role of experience in threat detection

Vanessa LoBue
Cognition & Emotion, January 2010, Pages 180-187

Abstract:
Snakes and spiders constitute a category of evolutionarily relevant stimuli that were recurrent and widespread threats to survival throughout human evolution. A large body of research has suggests that humans have an inborn bias to detect these stimuli more rapidly than non-threatening stimuli. However, recent research has demonstrated that adults also show rapid detection of modern threat-relevant stimuli, such as knives and syringes. This suggests that experience may also lead to rapid detection of threatening stimuli. The research reported here is an investigation of whether young children have an attentional bias for the detection of two types of modern threat-relevant stimuli - one with which they have experience (syringes) versus one with which they do not (knives). As predicted, the children detected the presence of syringes more quickly than pens, but did not detect knives more quickly than spoons. These results provide strong support for multiple mechanisms in threat detection.

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You Don't Only Hurt the One you Love: Self-Protective Responses to Attractive Relationship Alternatives

Ashby Plant, Jonathan Kunstman & Jon Maner
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Abstract:
Committed romantic relationships confer important benefits to psychological health and well-being. However, to effectively maintain these relationships, individuals must avoid threats posed by the temptation of attractive relationship alternatives. Previous work has demonstrated that individuals in committed relationships consciously downplay the allure of romantic alternatives. The current work tested the hypothesis that attractive relationship alternatives evoke an automatic self-protective response at an early stage of cognition. The current study employed a computer simulation that recorded automatic, split-second assessments of threat elicited by social targets that varied in their gender and level of attractiveness. Consistent with hypotheses, attractive opposite-sex targets evoked automatic self-protective responses from participants in committed heterosexual relationships. Moreover, these responses seemed to be particularly pronounced among the male participants in committed relationships. These findings have implications for the maintenance of long-term close relationships.

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Individual Differences in Face Recognition Memory: Comparison among Habitual Short, Average, and Long Sleepers

Melodee Mograss, Francois Guillem & Robert Stickgold
Behavioural Brain Research, forthcoming

Abstract:
Research indicates that habitual short sleepers show more rapid accumulation of slow-wave sleep at the beginning of the night. Enhancement in performance on declarative memory tasks has been associated with early NonREM sleep, consisting of the highest percentage of slow-wave sleep. Twenty-four subjects (8 short sleepers <7 hrs, 9 average >7 but <9 hrs, 7 long >9hrs) were tested. Subjects were presented with unfamiliar face stimuli and asked to memorize them for a subsequent test. Following sleep, the subjects were presented with the 40 "old/studied" items intermixed with 40 new and asked to indicate the previously presented stimuli. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were analyzed to verify the existence of the "Old/New" effect, i.e. amplitude difference [in ERPs] between the old and new stimuli. ANOVA on the scores revealed a significant interaction between the stimuli and group. Post-hoc test on the studied items revealed more accurate responses in the short sleepers compared to the average and long sleepers. Strikingly, the long sleepers, failed to show significant retention of the old/studied items, with their recognition of old faces not different from chance. RT responses were faster for the old versus the new items. Pearson correlation revealed a significant negative correlation between accuracy and sleep duration in the short sleepers. However, long and average sleepers showed a positive correlation between the two variables. ANOVA performed on the ERPs revealed main effects of stimuli and site, and no interactions involving the group factor. In conclusion, our data show that individual differences in recognition memory performance may be associated with differences in habitual sleep duration.

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Biased face recognition in the Faith Game

Ryo Oda & Shun Nakajima
Evolution and Human Behavior, forthcoming

Abstract:
Several studies have indicated that people are able to memorize the face of a cheater more accurately than that of a noncheater, but some contradictory findings have also been reported. Because most previous studies focused on memory for the faces of cheaters who break social contracts, the consequence for the subjects of their cheating was unclear. In our study, participants were asked to decide whether they trusted persons depicted in photographs to give them money using two sessions of the Faith Game. The participants tended to not increase their trust in the individuals, depicted in photographs, who had altruistically given money to them previously. However, participants recognized nonaltruists who had not shared money and, during the second session, rescinded the trust that they had previously placed in them. This suggests that bias in face recognition is not restricted to the recognition level, as previous studies have suggested, but also operates at the behavioral level and functions to facilitate the avoidance of persons who have caused some disadvantage in a previous interaction, rather than to facilitate new relationships with altruists by enhancing recognition of their faces.

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Genetics and personality affect visual perspective in autobiographical memory

Cédric Lemogne, Loretxu Bergouignan, Claudette Boni, Philip Gorwood, Antoine Pélissolo & Philippe Fossati
Consciousness and Cognition, September 2009, Pages 823-830

Abstract:
Major depression is associated with a decrease of 1st person (versus 3rd person) visual perspective in autobiographical memory, even after full remission. This study aimed to examine visual perspective in healthy never-depressed subjects presenting with either genetic or psychological vulnerability for depression. Sixty healthy participants performed the Autobiographical Memory Test with an assessment of visual perspective. Genetic vulnerability was defined by the presence of at least one S or LG allele of the polymorphism of the serotonin-transporter-linked promoter region (5-HTTLPR). Psychological vulnerability was defined by high scores of harm avoidance measured by the Temperament and Character Inventory. Life stress exposure, depressive mood, rumination, and familial history of depression were assessed through standardized procedures. Visual perspective for positive memories was independently predicted by both harm avoidance and a gene by environment interaction between the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism and life stress exposure. Visual perspective and vulnerability for depression may share some biological bases.


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