Being “average” is often considered a bad thing, but new research suggests that averageness wins when people assess the trustworthiness of a face. The research indicates that, while typical-looking faces aren’t seen as the most attractive, they are considered to be the most trustworthy.



While having a unique look hasn’t harmed the career of, say, Lily Cole, studies have repeatedly shown that when it comes to which faces we prefer, we are more impressed by averageness. Researchers created artificial faces on a computer by combining photos of several people’s faces to generate a composite, “average” image. In preference trials, these highly average faces were consistently rated most attractive. What’s more, the more faces were used to build a composite face, the more attractive the composite face was judged to be.



As well as averageness, there is another important influence on how physically attractive a person’s face is perceived to be.  A simple research study shatters whatever romantic notions you may hold. Male and female volunteers looked at a series of smiling female faces and were asked to rate the attractiveness of each one. Some of the faces they saw just once, while others they saw six times. By the end of the study the repeatedly viewed faces were picking up higher attractiveness ratings for no other reason than the added exposure. Did you think familiarity breeds contempt? You couldn’t be more wrong.



While people often expect the most attractive people to inspire the most trust in others, this isn’t the case.

Average-looking faces are considered most trustworthy, psychological research finds.

The reason may be down to the ‘typicality’ of an average-looking face.


Dr Carmel Sofer, who led the research, said:

“Face typicality likely indicates familiarity and cultural affiliation — as such, these findings have important implications for understanding social perception, including cross-cultural perceptions and interactions.”

As people’s faces get more distinctive — irrespective of whether it is more or less attractive — it gets less trustworthy.

Dr Sofer said:

“Although face typicality did not matter for attractiveness judgments, it mattered a great deal for trustworthiness judgments.

This effect may have been overlooked, because trustworthiness and attractiveness judgments are generally highly correlated in research.”

Source:psychologicalscience; theguardian.com ;spring.org.uk

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