“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere? I swear we’ve met before.”
“Oh wow, you look just like someone I know! Your face is so familiar…”
Do you get this all the time? It sounds like you may have an average looking face. But, fear not! As annoying or frustrating as frequently hearing these phrases may be, science says you’re actually better off for it.
Average Joes and Plain Janes
Having a typical, average face actually gives those possessing it a psychological advantage: they are considered the most trustworthy.
One would presume that people would trust others more if they deemed them more attractive, but research says that is not the case. Dr. Carmel Sofer, a behavioral scientist, determined that “what is typical is good” in her recent study. She argues that face typicality is an important phenomenon when it comes to general, social perceptions of others.
Dr. Sofer simply explained it here:
“Face typicality likely indicates familiarity and cultural affiliation — as such, these findings have important implications for understanding social perception, including cross-cultural perceptions and interactions.”
As humans, we like and we trust what is familiar to us. In her research, she compared trustworthiness judgements of people across faces ranging from more attractive to more typical and found that the judgements peaked when evaluating faces that were considered average. As the faces in the study grew more distinctive and unique, the deemed trustworthiness of those faces plummeted.
It is interesting to note here that attractivness did not make a difference – whether the typical face or the distinct face was attractive or not made no difference in trust levels.
Bonus: Learn how to read a face.
This research has gone where none has gone before: the findings here have cast a new light on the influence typical faces have on perceived trustworthiness and social perceptions. Do the high trust levels associated with having a typical face change when visiting other countries? Are there different “typical faces” across cultures? We can’t wait for more answers.
About Vanessa Van Edwards
Lead Investigator, Science of People
I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes.