BY TAYLOR WADE
READING TIME:  5:23 MINUTES

 

Can one predict character and 'dateability' solely based on a face?

I arrived at Pilsen's neighborhood pub and waited for him at the bar. I had only seen photos from his OKCupid profile, yet I remained hopeful that he hadn’t gained twenty pounds or aged twenty years. Shortly after, he arrived looking very dapper (which I later found out is his norm) in a long, sleek black jacket and a scarf that wrapped around his neck just below his chiseled jaw. 

I was instantly attracted to his strong facial features that reflected his dominant presence. As the evening unravelled, I realized his personality traits were just as robust – he was very decisive, opinionated, and strong-minded. 

This had me wondering… are facial features directly linked to personality traits? If so, what causes this correlation to occur? 

Scientists are uncovering evidence that some personality traits may in fact be written all over our faces. This could have important implications for the way we behave, why we gravitate toward specific people, and how we choose our sexual partners.

 

Appearance and Behavior Linked By Underlying Biological Processes

Hormones are one clear link between appearance and personality. Two sex hormones specifically influence facial development – testosterone and estrogen – while two neurohormones impact facial expression and emotion – dopamine and serotonin. All four hormones play a role in behavior, however, we will be examining testosterone and estrogen because they are responsible for facial development.

High testosterone shows itself in strong, squared jawbones, dark coloring, large noses, high foreheads, small eyes, heavy brow ridges, and hollow cheekbones. 

Contrarily, high estrogen reveals itself in round faces, smooth skin, small chins, sparse facial hair, arched eyebrows, big eyes, plump lips, and wider jawlines. 

In one study, published by Biological Anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fisher, more than 178,000 participants were asked to describe themselves in one word, in an attempt to link these two hormones to specific personality traits.

The majority of those Dr. Fisher identified as having more testosterone replied “intellectual.” Fisher believes that these people are likely to be direct, decisive, competitive, logical and technical in nature. 

Those with more estrogen tended to answer “passionate,” and were seen to be compassionate, broad-minded, idealistic and verbally and socially skilled.

In Psychology Today’s article, What’s In A Face?, Jena Pincott states, “Women may have a default preference for men with a mix of masculine and feminine features; dominant and cooperative. Think Brad Pitt's manly jawline and sensuous lips.”

 

The Experiment

I was extremely curious if I could find a string of continuity in the facial features of my formers, and if these features did in fact portray their personality styles.

At first glance, I didn’t notice any doppelgängers in the group, however, looking closer I noticed a few similarities: bushy eyebrows, larger noses, subtle scruff that lay atop strong, squared jawlines, and they all had those extremely appealing laugh lines (which was probably more a sign of good humor than hormones.) There was only one who stood out as having a “baby face” with softer features, plump lips, and a delicate chin. 

From this information, I was able to decipher that I was attracted to testosterone-driven faces, except for the baby face incident. 

The next step was uncovering if my formers’ facial features did in fact portray their personality type. 

After anatomizing the traits of each ex-boyfriend, I realized I dated intellectual, strong-minded, and opinionated men, hence the facial features associated with testosterone. 

As is turns out, my one anomaly had a different set of personality traits, which were in fact associated with estrogen. He was less opinionated on matters, making him more agreeable, and he was very visionary and idealistic, always talking about the big picture and starting phrases with, “Down the road…”

 

“Directors” and “Negotiators” 

Dr. Helen Fisher labeled individuals with high levels of testosterone as “Directors” and individuals with estrogen as “Negotiators.” 

She says, Directors can be described as, “Direct, decisive, focused, analytical, logical, tough-minded, exacting, emotionally-contained and good at strategic thinking. They get to the point.  Many are bold and competitive. They excel at figuring out machines, mathematical formulae or other rule-based systems. Many are good at understanding the structure of music.” 

She even goes on to pinpoint their favorite foods, all high in levels of testosterone: meat, nuts, oysters because these are a source of zinc (which is used to make testosterone), beans, and eggs, as the protein in eggs allow adrenal glands to keep levels of bodily testosterone steady. 

Negotiators, on the hand, are described much differently. Fisher says, “They see the big picture, they connect disparate facts to think contextually and holistically, 'web thinking', imaginative, superior verbal skills and people skills, excel at reading postures, gestures, facial expressions and tones of voice, 'executive social skills', intuitive, sympathetic, nurturing, mentally flexible, agreeable, idealistic, altruistic and emotionally expressive.”

Favorite foods of a Negotiator are believed to be salads, fruits, vegetables, and tofu. Vegans and vegetarians are more common among Negotiators.

Now it makes more sense why my former “Director” type, capable of cutting glass with his jawline, ate eggs by morning and meat and potatoes by night, while my other baby face “Negotiator” would boast that his rosy cheeks stemmed from all of the tofu and sprouted grains his ‘mum’ fed him. 

 

Which Make Better Long-Term Partners?

It has been said that the face a man is born with reflects his level of interest in commitment.

Research done at the University of Oxford states that higher levels of testosterone can go together with greater sexual promiscuity as an adult. 

Contrarily, a male with less testosterone, indicated by less masculine features, may invest more in caring for offspring (whether or not he’s the biological father) and so may be better to have around for the long term. 

As we learned earlier, women may have a default preference for men with a mix of masculine and feminine features…

This made me wonder – do women pursue men with a combination of masculine and feminine features because women want powerful and dominant men, capable of providing and protecting them, while at the same time knowing that they are in for the long haul? 

 

Nature Vs Nurture

We must not forget that while biology is a driving force in behavior patterns, our personal experiences also create the people we become. 

Don’t assume every man with a chiseled jaw is promiscuous; he may have been raised by his mother and four sisters, nurturing him into a more sensitive specimen. Similarly, don’t assume the boy with facial features as soft as a baby’s bottom is eternally loyal. 

First impressions are only the starting point from which we begin to learn what’s really behind the features of a face. 

 

References:

Fisher, Helen. “We have chemistry! — the role of four primary temperament dimensions in mate choice and partner compatibility.” The Psychotherapist. Autumn 2012. Issue 52 (2012): 8-9. UK Council for Psychotherapy. Web. 24 May 2015.

Fink, Bernhard and Ian Penton-Voak. “Evolutionary Psychology of Facial Attractiveness.” Current Directions In Psychological Science, 11.5 (2002): 154-158. American Psychological Society. Web. 24 May 2015.

Pincott, Jena. “What’s In A Face?” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 5 November 2012. Web. 24 May 2015.

“Do you stray or stay? Humans divide into promiscuous or faithful groups.” University of Oxford. Oxford University Press, 4 February 2015. Web. 24 May 2015.

“Reading Faces: Facial Prejudice.” BBC. 17 September 2014. Web. 24 May. 2015.


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