Social Behavior

You Decide If You Trust An Unfamiliar Face After Only 100 Milliseconds

Ever laid eyes on someone for the first time and thought, "she looks nice"? It happens all the time, and yet you've got no actual evidence to go on. You can just tell—right? Well, you're not alone.

A Face You Can Trust

According to Princeton University psychology professor, Alexander Todorov, humans are "wired to look to faces to understand the person's intentions." A 2006 study shows that people decide whether or not they trust someone new after as little as 100 milliseconds... that's faster than a heartbeat. And, as it turns out, a lot of our judgments are pretty predictable. After looking at a series of photos with varying facial features and expressions, most participants found faces with stereotypically feminine/baby-like facial features and happy expressions to be more kind and trustworthy, while mature and neutral faces were deemed more dominant and untrustworthy.

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Why You Should Care

The results of a 2010 study on the impact of first impressions of trustworthiness on legal evaluations could have important implications for the justice system: "defendants who are considered untrustworthy based on physical characteristics may be vulnerable to faulty decision-making and wrongful convictions, even in the face of powerful exonerating evidence." Knowing this, jurors should be particularly careful and open-minded. No matter what our first impressions tell us, we should back those feelings up with real facts. In some cases, a person's life could depend on it.

What's In A Face? A Lot, According To These Videos

Is Your Face Trustworthy?

You're not mean—your brain is judging people's faces subconsciously.

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The People Who Can't See Faces

Some people actually have a medical condition that makes it impossible for them to recognize faces.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Prosopagnosia is a condition in which people can't cognitively see faces. 00:22

  2. The fusiform gyrus handles visual word recognition, color processing and face and body recognition. 02:28

  3. People with face blindness tend have trouble interpreting facial expressions as well. 05:00