What can you accurately tell about a person just by looking at their face?

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Eric Barker  -  
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A lot, actually:

Several studies have demonstrated some accuracy in personality attribution using only visual appearance. Using composite images of those scoring high and low on a particular trait, the current study shows that judges perform better than chance in guessing others’ personality, particularly for the traits conscientiousness and extraversion. This study also shows that attractiveness, masculinity and age may all provide cues to assess personality accurately and that accuracy is affected by the sex of both of those judging and being judged. Individuals do perform better than chance at guessing another’s personality from only facial information, providing some support for the popular belief that it is possible to assess accurately personality from faces.

Source: Using composite images to assess accuracy in personality attribution to faces” from British Journal of Psychology

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Can the strategic use of coffee make you more persuasive?:

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Eric Barker  -  
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Absolutely:

Two experiments are reported that examine the effects of caffeine consumption on attitude change by using different secondary tasks to manipulate message processing. The first experiment employed an orientating task whilst the second experiment employed a distracter task. In both experiments participants consumed an orange-juice drink that either contained caffeine (3.5 mg/kg body weight) or did not contain caffeine (placebo) prior to reading a counter-attitudinal communication. The results across both experiments were similar. When message processing was reduced or under high distraction, there was no attitude change irrespective of caffeine consumption. However, when message processing was enhanced or under low distraction, there was greater attitude change in the caffeine vs. placebo conditions. Furthermore, attitudes formed after caffeine consumption resisted counter-persuasion (Experiment 1) and led to indirect attitude change (Experiment 2). The extent that participants engaged in message-congruent thinking mediated the amount of attitude change. These results provide evidence that moderate amounts of caffeine increase systematic processing of the arguments in the message resulting in greater agreement.

Source: “Effects of caffeine on persuasion and attitude change: The role of secondary tasks in manipulating systematic message processing” from European Journal of Social Psychology Volume 37, Issue 2, pages 320–338, March/April 2007


Does darkness increase dishonesty?:

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Eric Barker  -  
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Yes, it does:

via boston.com

In several experiments, researchers found that light levels influence selfish behavior. People who were placed in a dimly lit room were significantly more likely to cheat than people placed in a well-lit room. Likewise, people who were asked to wear sunglasses were less generous in a sharing game than people who were asked to wear clear glasses. This pattern appears to be the result of an increased sense of anonymity in lower light levels, even though light levels did not confer any actual increase in anonymity.

Zhong, C. et al., “A Good Lamp is the Best Police: Darkness Increases Dishonesty and Self-Interested Behavior,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

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Does obvious flattery work?

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Eric Barker  -  
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Absolutely:

Participants in the study were asked to evaluate the merits of a new department store opening in the area based on one of the store’s advertisements. In addition to describing the new store’s offerings, the ad lauded readers for their impeccable sense of style and eye for high fashion. While participants overwhelmingly categorized the pamphlet as flattery with the ulterior motive of pushing blouses, the experimenters were more interested in how their attitudes would be influenced at the implicit level. Might participants develop a non-conscious positive association with the department store, even after rejecting the ad as meaningless puffery? And if so, would this implicit reaction be a better predictor of decisions and behavior down the road? Will even the people who are wise to advertising tricks end up at the register, credit card in hand?

It turns out that implicit attitudes towards the store were more positive than explicit attitudes. They were also better predictors of reported likelihood of making future purchases, as well as likelihood of joining the store’s club. So it seems that while participants quickly dismissed these ads at the explicit level, the flattery was exerting an important effect outside their awareness.

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Are narcissists more charming?:

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Eric Barker  -  
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Initially, yes. Later on, nope:

On the basis of a realistic behavioral approach, the authors showed that narcissists are popular at zero acquaintance and aimed to explain why this is the case. In Study 1, a group of psychology freshmen (N = 73) judged each other on the basis of brief self-introductions using a large round-robin design (2,628 dyads). Three main findings were revealed: First, narcissism leads to popularity at first sight. Second, the aspects of narcissism that are most maladaptive in the long run (exploitativeness/entitlement) proved to be most attractive at zero acquaintance. Third, an examination of observable verbal and nonverbal behaviors as well as aspects of physical appearance provided an explanation for why narcissists are more popular at first sight. Results were confirmed using judgments of uninvolved perceivers under 3 different conditions for which the amount of available information was varied systematically: (a) full information (video and sound, Study 2), (b) nonverbal information only (video only, Study 3), or (c) physical information only (still photograph of clothing, Study 4). These findings have important implications for understanding the inter- and intrapersonal dynamics of narcissism.

Source: Why are narcissists so charming at first sight? Decoding the narcissism–popularity link at zero acquaintance. from Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

Okay, they’re more charming, but are they more physically attractive?

And if we’re so charmed by them you may be wondering if the traits we prefer in potential mates are the traits we value in ourselves.

Speaking of being attracted to the wrong things, do women prefer men who are already attached?

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