Physical Characteristics for ‘Looking’ Smart

April 23, 2014 Katharina Lochner

frustration at work

The Importance of a Smile if You Want to Look Clever!

Humans often judge other people’s personality based on superficial characteristics such as the shape of their face or their facial expression. There was even a time when some psychologists believed that personality could be predicted by measuring the human skull (phrenology). But of course this is nonsense. Or is it?

In a recent article in the journal PLoS ONE Karel Kleisner from Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic, and his colleagues found that humans perceive individuals with a long face, sharp chin, larger nose, broader distance between the eyes, and slightly upturned edges of the mouth as more intelligent than individuals with the opposite facial characteristics. Not much of a surprise here. That is what humans do. Make quick judgements of human characteristics based on the cues they have available. However, the surprising finding was that the perception was accurate to a certain degree: those who were perceived as more intelligent in fact were. But this was only the case for men. There was no relationship between perceived and measured intelligence in women. Moreover, extremely intelligent men were perceived as less intelligent. There is an outline of the study on the PsyBlog.

Interestingly enough the authors of the study seem to be more concerned about finding an explanation for why there is NO relationship between perceived intelligence in women than they are in finding one for why there IS such a relationship in men. Thus, further backing up of this study might be necessary. However, what might be of practical interest to our readers are some findings the authors report alongside their key findings. Smiling faces are perceived as more intelligent than angry faces and perceived intelligence is also associated to perceived trustworthiness. Thus, smiling will make you appear more intelligent and trustworthy to others!

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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