You can’t judge a book by its cover.
Except sometimes, you can.
While it’s not a good idea to make generalizations about people based on the way they look, science does show that there are a few things we can tell about physical traits and someone’s personality.
So in this article, we’re going to go through 12 interesting physical traits and the way they can affect personality – or how people perceive personalities – according to research.
1) People who are taller and have rectangular faces are more like to be leaders
A study published in psychological science found that people with rectangular face shape – or a prominent jaw with high cheekbones and a wide forehead – were viewed as better leaders.
The study found that companies with leaders with this type of face shape were more likely to be financially successful.
Furthermore, the taller someone is, the more we believe that they are better at being a leader.
We can even do this without seeing someone’s body and relying purely on facial characteristics.
Well, certain facial characteristics, like the length of the face, is also associated with height.
So even if we aren’t consciously thinking of it, our brain is making assumptions in the background.
2) People with strong personalities tend to have strong jaws
The size of someone’s jawline is often associated with physical strength. If you think about it, you probably already intuitively know this.
But did you know that a strong jaw also indicates a strong personality?
Yep, and it could have something to do with the fact that our jaw is the strongest joint in the body.
3) More agreeable people have larger eyes
A Chinese study found that “those who were higher on agreeableness had eyebrows that appeared to be “lifted up” and had smaller forehead spans (i.e., the distance between the eyebrows and the hairline). By contrast, lower levels of Agreeableness were associated with the opposite, that is, a jaw and eyebrows that were sunken.”
The study also found that:
– Round-eye people are more likely to wear their heart on their sleeves. They’re expressive and more likely to be impulsive.
– Wide-set eyes are indicative of an adventurous personality willing to trial new things.
– People with almond-shaped eyes are more likely to be passionate but grounded.
– Downward-slanting eyes can be the mark of a pessimist.
4) Extroverted people tend to have larger lips
In the same Chinese study as above, extroverted women tended to have a larger nose and lips.
Here’s what Dr. Mehta had to say about it:
“Higher levels of Extroversion were related to more protruding nose and lips, a recessive chin and masseter muscles (the jaw muscles used in chewing). By contrast, the face of those with lower Extroversion levels showed the reverse pattern, in which the area around the nose appeared to press against the face. These findings suggest that perhaps psychological traits can — to some degree — be read on a person’s face, though more studies would be needed to understand this phenomenon.”
5) People with larger noses have more ambition
A study published in the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery found a correlation between ambition and larger noses.
Pretty interesting right? But that’s not the only thing nose type is associated with.
Business Insider also reported that a nose with a “fleshy tip” is correlated to more empathy for others and an upturned nose suggests greater extroversion.
6) There are shared behaviors in people with the same eye color
Scientists at Orebro University in Sweden studied to see if personalities were linked to the irises in the eye.
What did they find?
They found that eye color is affected by the same genes that form our frontal lobes, and therefore, there are distinctly shared behaviors in people with similar irises.
For example: “those with densely packed crypts are more warmhearted, tender, trusting and likely to sympathize with others.”
7) Men with larger facial width-to-height ratios are more aggressive
A 2009 Canadian study found that most women are able to accurately predict how aggressive men are.
Researchers also found a connection between men with larger facial width-to-height ratios and perceived aggression levels.
According to a study that appeared in Evolution and Human Behaviour, we perceive someone’s aggression levels based on the width of their face.
And surprisingly, this is actually pretty smart of our brain.
Why? Because wider faces are associated with having higher testosterone levels.
And higher testosterone levels are correlated with aggression.
Through evolution, our brain has learned to perceive someone’s aggression levels because it’s probably more likely that they’re a threat to our safety (at least in the past, that is).
8) Extroverted people smile more
People who are extroverted tend to smile more naturally, while people who are introverted have to try to maintain a smile for public situations.
Evidence of this has shown up in studies where participants looked at photographs of people smiling and determined which ones were more likely extroverts based on their smiles.
9) Narcissists tend to wear brighter clothing and have more accessories
A study done in 2009 predicted the level of someone’s narcissistic ways just by the way a person looked in a full-body picture. Certain attributes led the participants to these conclusions including whether or not a person had bright clothing on, wore makeup and accessories, and whether or not they were smiling a lot.
The researchers write: “These results suggest that narcissists do seem to alter their appearance (consciously or unconsciously) in a way that reflects their appearance-oriented motives.”
10) People who post selfies might be more open to new experiences
It turns out that people who post selfies on a regular basis might be open to more new experiences than the average person.
A study done in 2015 found that people could accurately predict someone’s openness to new experiences based on how positive they looked in a selfie photograph.
11) Good looking people really do have it easier
Most of us don’t think that we make snap judgments about someone from the moment we meet them.
But the truth is, we do.
In fact, according to research presented in psychological science, the human brain is capable of making assumptions about someone in one-tenth of a second.
What do we immediately look at?
Princeton psychologists found that we make these judgments according to a person’s face.
The more attractive their face is, the more positive assumptions we make about them.
Believe it or not, there’s a term for it: the halo effect.
This means that our brain naturally assumes that someone who looks good is good.
And by good, we assume that they are more likely to be trustworthy, kind and friendly.
So, what does good looking actually mean in terms of a human face?
Well, according to science, it’s all about averages.
Faces that we find attractive tend to be symmetrical. They also tend to have measurements similar to the population average.
According to Coren Apicella, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, “average faces are more attractive because they seem more familiar.”
12) What does their voice like?
This isn’t exactly a physical characteristic, but according to research, we judge people by the way they sound.
And all we need to hear is a single word, according to the Voice Neurocognition Laboratory.
In their study, participants listened to different recordings of people saying “hello” and then were asked to rate them based on trustworthiness, warmth, and aggression.
What did they find?
It was found that people tend to share similar first impressions based on how a person sounds.
For example, female voices were perceived as more truth-worthy if their voices drop at the end of a word, and for male voices, if they have a higher pitch.
So the next time you find yourself “judging a book by its cover”, remember that it’s not a terrible way to determine someone’s personality traits.
We might not like that we can size someone up in such a short period of time, but that doesn’t mean that it is isn’t possible.
New eBook: The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness
Resilience and mental toughness are key attributes to living your best life.
They determine how high we rise above what threatens to wear us down, from battling an illness, to dealing with challenging emotions, to carrying on after a relationship has ended.
In this eBook, we outline exactly what it means to be mentally tough and equip you with 10 resilience-building tools that you can start using today.
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.