A new study has shown that decisions made when choosing candidates could be influenced by subconscious discriminations based on facial features.
The research suggested that certain features correspond with particular characteristics to the human subconscious.
Competence, dominance and friendliness are connected, subconsciously, to features such as large foreheads and prominent features, whilst ‘babyface’ features – typified by a round face with large eyes and a small nose and chin – are associated with incompetence.
Dr Christopher Olivola, from the university’s Tepper School of Business, told The Daily Mail: “although we would like to think our judgments and choices are rational, impartial, consistent, and solely based on relevant information, the truth is that they are often biased by superficial and irrelevant factors. ‘This is a troubling human tendency that needs to be corrected, or at least mitigated, because faces are not valid predictors of a person’s traits.”
Researchers asked participants in their study to rate various faces in relation to different traits.
They used the scores to create a computerised ‘average face’ which led to the identification of which features were seen to represent which traits.
Some of the results included untrustworthiness being associated with sunken cheeks and furrowed brows, whereas trustworthiness and honesty were linked to prominent cheekbones, high eyebrows and smiling.
The associations are seemingly linked to career success, according to the findings: dominant, masculine features bode well for military rank progression, and candidates with ‘competent’ features have better chances of securing positions within large and successful companies, even if they had performed no better than candidates who lack them. Political candidates with ‘competent’ faces stand a higher chance of being elected.
‘We need to guard against letting our choices be biased by superficial cues,’ said Dr Olivola.
‘In some contexts, educating people might be sufficient to reduce facial stereotyping. In other contexts, however, more research will be needed to identify the best way to mitigate the biasing influence of facial appearance.’