A U.S. psychologist says we might not be able to tell a book from its cover, but we can decide if a person is attractive in only a tenth of a second.
Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov says people respond intuitively to faces so rapidly our minds may not have time to influence the reaction — and our intuitions about attraction and trust are among those we form the fastest.
"The link between facial features and character may be tenuous at best, but that doesn’t stop our minds from sizing other people up at a glance," said Todorov, an assistant professor of psychology. "We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them. It appears we are hard-wired to draw these inferences in a fast, unreflective way."
Todorov and co-author Janine Willis, a student researcher who graduated from Princeton in 2005, used timed experiments and found snap judgments on character are often formed with insufficient time for rational thought.
The research appears in the July issue of the journal Psychological Science.