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12th Feb 2024

Science has identified what makes a face trustworthy

Anna Martin

trustworthy face

Do you find that taxi drivers always seems to tell you their life story?

Well congratulations, you may just be the proud owner of a trustworthy face.

Though most of us by now have been or have heard someone being described as having a trustworthy look about them, what exactly makes them this way?

It seems that scientists have figured out the answer and unsurprisingly it has everything to do with the shape of your face.

A team of New York University psychology researchers found we tend to judge someone with high eyebrows and prominent cheekbones to be more honest.

Science has identified what makes a face trustworthy
Kim Kardashian has what science deems as a trustworthy face Credit: Getty

On the other hand, we are less likely to trust someone with a furrowed brow and sunken cheeks.

However, it’s important to keep in mind, that none of these features actually reflect how honest a person is – you can’t measure that by looking at someone’s eyebrows.

The researchers found that a section of the brain decides a person’s trustworthiness even before we have consciously perceived who they are.

The brain takes just 33 milliseconds – three-hundredths of a second, or a tenth of the time it takes to blink – to decide whether someone is to be trusted.

Jonathan Freeman, assistant professor at New York University’s Department of Psychology, said: “Our findings suggest that the brain automatically responds to a face’s trustworthiness before it is even consciously perceived.

“The results are consistent with an extensive body of research suggesting that we form spontaneous judgments of other people that can be largely outside awareness.”

Science has identified what makes a face trustworthy
Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t have a trustworthy face Credit: Getty

So if we decide to apply their findings to some celeb faces, Angelina Jolie would be considered trustworthy because of her high cheekbones and eyebrows.

Yet an example of someone who would be considered untrustworthy (again you can’t say for sure just by looking at someone’s face, don’t cancel me, please) is Richard Nixon who had low eyebrows and hollow cheeks.

The New York research team presented a panel of ten volunteers with 300 computer-generated faces and asked them how trustworthy each was.

Those faces with high cheekbones, high eyebrows and a smile were perceived to be the most honest.

The scientists also presented the panel with real pictures of strangers, and the same facial attributes were found to be deemed as trustworthy.

In a second set of experiments, a new set of 37 volunteers were presented with the ‘trustworthy’ and ‘untrustworthy’ images for a split second, while their brain activity was monitored.

Science has identified what makes a face trustworthy
Stacey Solomon has a trustworthy face Credit: Getty

The images were then immediately replaced with a neutral picture so the brain could no longer process the previous image.

Researchers found that a region of the brain called the amygdala, which is vital in social and emotional behaviour, activated within 33 milliseconds even when the images were flashed up just momentarily.

So even when we try not to judge a book by its cover we seem to do it subconsciously.