Previous research suggests the establishment of a first impression involves a number of judgements, but that they all boil down to three distinct assessments: approachability, dominance and youthful-attractiveness.
Now, researchers from York University, in the United Kingdom, say the face alone -- and how we perceive it -- accounts for at least 50 percent this multipart decision making process.
The researchers took 1,000 photographs and plotted over 65 different facial features. After the photographs were shown to survey participants and first impressions were recorded, they were able to plot each feature and show how different features corresponded to different first impressions. Using this information, researchers were then able to create a computer avatar that could consistently produce predictable first impressions.
The study was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
"Showing that even supposedly arbitrary features in a face can influence people's perceptions suggests that careful choice of a photo could make (or break) others' first impressions of you," said Richard Vernon, a graduate student and member of the research team.
"In everyday life I am not conscious of the way faces and pictures of faces are influencing the way I interact with people," explained Tom Hartley, lead researcher. "Whether in 'real life' or online; it feels as if a person's character is something I can just sense. These results show how heavily these impressions are influenced by visual features of the face -- it's quite an eye opener!"