First impressions are hard to shake. That goes for job interviews, first dates, and more grave scenarios like standing before a jury for a crime. That’s because certain facial features, not your expressions, can sway how trustworthy you appear, according to research from the University of British Columbia.
In two separate studies—both of which were based on two real criminal cases—researchers asked participants to examine a photo, watch a video, or listen to an audio recording of an 81-year-old woman missing her husband and a father missing his nine-year-old daughter asking for the return of their loved one. After, participants rated how trusworthy and honest the man and woman appeared.
Participants believed the elderly woman’s public appeal—even though it was later revealed she killed her husband. Meanwhile, the study subjects judged the father wrongly solely based on his facial features; they believed he was lying about his involvement in his daughter’s disappearance even though he was proven to be innocent.
“When encountering a person in any given situation, we automatically and instantaneously form an impression of whether a target is worthy of our trust because, evolutionarily, this kind of assessment has helped our survival,” says lead study author Alysha Baker, Ph.D. “For example, assessing ‘friend or foe’,” says Baker. “We’re typically not aware of this quick decision and it may be experienced as ‘intuition’, but this can be particularly problematic in the legal system because these first impressions are often unfounded and can lead to biased decision-making.”
Unfair? Sure. Your credibility and character can be perceived solely on the way you look rather than your behavior. That’s going to hurt (or help) you socially, at work, and beyond.
So, what does your face say about your perceived trustworthiness? Check out the characteristics below that deem whether you look like a standup, honorable, truthful guy—or not.
Trustworthy Features: Higher Eyebrows
It may seem like an odd defining factor, but people with high-arched eyebrows are perceived as more honest and trustworthy.
Trustworthy Features: More Pronounced Cheekbones
If you have a chiseled face—so your cheekbones are more pronounced—people are more apt to make a snap judgment and see you as an approachable guy.
Trustworthy Features: Rounder Face
Men and women who have round faces, compared to those with long, pointy bone structure and profiles, are considered to be more sincere and truthful.
Untrustworthy-Looking Features: Downturned Eyebrows
If your eyebrows are shaped so the end closest to the bridge of your nose angles down and the end closest to your cheeks point up, you’re considered to be less trustworthy upon first impression.
Untrustworthy-Looking Features: Thinner Face
As mentioned, people with thin, pointy faces are seen as deceitful and dishonest. (Cartoon villains ringing a bell?)