March 23, 2005

Physiognomy reborn

The ancient science of physiognomy aimed to derive conclusions about a person's character from his appearance. This science was largely "discredited" by the more "enlightened" egalitarian moderns who could not believe that appearance could have something to do with personality. It turns out, however, that appearance is related to personality to some degree, as the following article illustrates

Personality and Individual Differences (Article in Press)

Facial symmetry and the ‘big-five’ personality factors

Bernhard Finka et al.


The present study investigated possible associations between facial symmetry and actual personality as assessed by the ‘big-five’ personality factors: neuroticism (N), extraversion (E), openness (O), agreeableness (A), and conscientiousness (C). Digital photographs were taken of male and female faces, volunteers also completed the NEO-FFI personality inventory. Facial images were analysed for horizontal symmetry by means of digital image processing. Following previous reports we predicted that facial symmetry should be negatively related to neuroticism but positively related to extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. In general, our data on actual personality confirmed previous reports on perceptions of personality for neuroticism and extraversion. Neuroticism was found to be negatively but not significantly related to facial symmetry whereas extraversion was positively associated. In contrast to previous data, we found significant negative associations between facial symmetry and openness and agreeableness. Conscientiousness was non-significantly related to facial symmetry. The strongest associations with facial symmetry were found for extraversion and openness. Our results suggest that behavioural perceptions of an individual may reflect an individual’s actual personality, and facial symmetry is a correlate of personality. However, because of some inconsistencies between this and previous studies we suggest that (1) the associations between facial symmetry and personality traits require further investigation, and (2) future studies should urge for methodological consistency to make results comparable.


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