Archive for the ‘trustworthiness’ Category

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Thanks to new research out of MIT, you might one day be able to subtly manipulate your picture to make it more memorable — meaning that people should be more likely to remember your face.

According to the research article: “One ubiquitous fact about people is that we cannot avoid evaluating the faces we see in daily life … In this flash judgment of a face, an underlying decision is happening in the brain — should I remember this face or not? Even after seeing a picture for only half a second we can often remember it.”

There are subjective factors affecting how a face sticks in your memory — for example, if you know someone else who looks similar, you might find a new face more familiar. But researchers found that there is also a strong universal component to memorability. Some faces are just consistently more easily remembered.

Researchers found that certain associations help make a face memorable: familiarity, kindness, trustworthiness, uniqueness.
“The basic idea is that if there is someone you have never seen [before] and … this person looks familiar — then, if this person looks kind, trustworthy and distinct, then it will be easier to remember them,” says Aude Oliva, a principal research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab.

But, she says, there’s no “recipe” for how exactly to make facial features look like that; it differs from face to face. But the researchers are working toward creating an app or demo that would analyze thousands of versions of any face, each with tiny modifications, and figure out which is the most memorable — without changing other key aspects like attractiveness, age or expression.

“Manipulating faces is a very tricky process,” Oliva says. “The changes must be subtle and keep the original features of the portrait.”

What’s the point of capitalizing on that? The researchers suggest that social network users could upload more memorable profile pictures, or that job applicants could include a digitally remastered portrait to “more readily stick in the minds of potential employers,” according to the MIT press release (although, take note, job applicants: Business Insider says including your photo with a resume is a no-no anyway).

It could also be used in movies to make the lead characters stick out and fade the extras into the background.

At first glance, the project could seem deceptive or disparaging, as if it’s exploiting our memory or telling us our natural faces aren’t good enough for LinkedIn. But Oliva stresses that the changes are very subtle. And, we wonder, is it any different than using Photoshop to touch up a profile picture or using makeup to make an anchor’s face look more striking on TV?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/01/09/261064231/how-to-make-your-face-digitally-unforgettable

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Despite a known link between a masculine-looking face and aggression in men, macho-faced soldiers didn’t survive Finland’s World War II Winter War in greater numbers than recruits with less masculine faces.

The macho-looking men did, however, have more children in their lifetimes than thinner-faced guys, suggesting that face shape is a sign of evolutionary fitness.

The new findings, published today May 7 in the journal Biology Letters, reveal nuances in how hormones, genetics and societal structures might work together to influence evolution. For example, the technology of 20th-century warfare may have turned survival into a matter of luck rather than evolutionary fitness, said study leader John Loehr, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Helsinki Lammi Biological Station.

“You have very little individual ability to change your fate,” Loehr told LiveScience. “You’re put in a situation where you and the 20 other people who are in your trench are hit by a shell, and it’s game over.”

High levels of testosterone during development are linked with a certain macho look: a broad face, strong jaw and narrow eyes. Any number of swaggering movie stars, from Paul Newman to Channing Tatum (“G.I. Joe”), has parlayed this face shape into successful onscreen careers.

Meanwhile, psychologists have found that guys with Newman’s squint or Tatum’s wide cheekbones tend to be higher in aggression than men with thinner faces. One study on Japanese baseball players, released in April, found that wider-faced players hit more home runs. And in 2008, Canadian researchers discovered that hockey players with wider faces spent more time in the penalty box than other players for aggressive behavior.

The hockey player finding got Loehr thinking about whether high testosterone (and thus, aggression) might confer a survival advantage on wider-faced guys.

“The obvious thing, for me, was, ‘Well, can we get some military data?'” he said.

Fortunately, he could. Finland is a country with meticulous record-keeping, and at the library for the Finnish National Defense in Helsinki, Loehr inquired of a librarian where he might find resources with photos of World War II soldiers (for facial width measurements) as well as personal data about those men.

“She sort of walked around the corner and there were rows of these books sitting there with all the pictures and an amazing amount of personal data,” Loehr said.

Over several months, Loehr pulled together other resources, including photo books of dead soldiers compiled during Finland’s three-and-a-half-month Winter War with the Soviet Union in 1939. Using these old books, he was able to measure facial widths of both surviving soldiers and men lost during the war. He also knew these men’s ranks and how many children they had during their lifetimes.

Military service was and still is mandatory in Finland, Loehr said, so World War II soldiers were a good representation of the male population.

Loehr focused on three WWII regiments, for a total of 795 soldiers. He and co-researcher Robert O’Hara of the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Germany found that wider-faced soldiers fathered more children than narrower-faced ones. The finding would have been expected by evolutionary researchers, given previous studies suggesting that fertile women are drawn to more masculine men.

The other findings were more surprising. For one, the wider-faced guys were actually less likely than narrow-faced men to rank higher in the military hierarchy. In other words, the higher the rank, the more likely the man was to have a narrow face.

“That’s a curious one,” Loehr said. Ecologically, he said, you’d expect the men who fathered more children in a community to be the socially dominant guys.

“For human species, it’s perhaps more nuanced,” Loehr said. For example, wide-faced guys have been shown in laboratory experiments to be less trustworthy. Trustworthiness might be more important for military leaders than dominance or aggression.

Another possibility is that the wider-faced guys could have moved up the military ranks during periods of conflict, Loehr said, as his findings were based on rank before the Winter War started. A study published in June 2012 found that in competitive situations, macho-faced guys are the most likely to work together to defeat a common enemy. If that’s the case, any testosterone advantage may not have come out until war began.

Second, Loehr and O’Hara found that face shape didn’t affect survival at all. A wider-faced man was equally as likely to die in battle as a man with a narrower face.

Technology may trump testosterone, Loehr said. One study, published in 2012 in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, found that in fights involving hand-to-hand combat or other physical contact, narrow-faced men were more likely to die than wide-faced men. In conflicts where a gun, poison or other remote weapon was used, face shape made no difference.

The same could be true for Finnish soldiers, who fought and died with guns in the trenches, Loehr said.

“You would think that thousands of years ago, when combat would have been more hand-to-hand, without much use of tools, that you would have a different result,” he said. “It’s possible that humans have changed how selection can operate by developing this technology.”

http://www.livescience.com/29393-macho-faces-war-survival.html

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In a study recently published in PLoS ONE, researchers from from Charles University in the Czech Republic had 238 participants rate the faces of 80 students for trustworthiness, attractiveness, and dominance. Not surprisingly, they found that the three measures correlated well with each other, with faces rating high on one scale rating high on the other two. Female faces were generally more trustworthy than male ones. But that’s wasn’t all. A much more peculiar correlation was discovered as they looked at the data: brown-eyed faces were deemed more trustworthy than blue-eyed ones.

It didn’t matter if the judge was male or female, blue-eyed or brown-eyed. Even accounting for attractiveness and dominance, the result was the same: brown-eyed people’s faces were rated more trustworthy. There was some evidence of in-group bias, with blue-eyed female faces receiving lower ratings from brown-eyed women than from blue or green-eyed ones, but this difference didn’t drive the phenomenon. All the participants, no matter what eye color they had or how good-looking they thought the face was agreed that brown-eyed people just appear to look more reliable.

The real question is why? Is there a cultural bias towards brown eyes? Or does eye color really correlate somehow with personality traits like accountability and honesty? Does eye color really matter that much?

To find out, the scientists used computer manipulation to take the same faces but change their eye colors. Without changing traits other than hue of the iris, the researchers swapped the eye colors of the test faces from blue to brown and vice versa. This time, the opposite effect was found. Despite the strange correlation to eye color, the team found that eye color didn’t affect a photo’s trustworthiness rating. So it isn’t the eye color itself that really matters—something else about brown-eyed faces makes them seem more dependable.

To get at what’s really going on, the researchers took the faces and analyzed their shape. They looked at the distances between 72 facial landmarks, creating a grid-like representation of each face. For men, the answer was clear: differences in face shape explained the appeal of brown eyes.

Shape changes associated with eye color and perceived trustworthiness, from the grid-based facial shape analysis done by the researchers. Note the similarities between the shapes of brown-eyed faces and trustworthy ones.

“Brown-eyed individuals tend to be perceived as more trustworthy than blue-eyed ones,” explain the authors. “But it is not brown eyes that cause this perception. It is the facial morphology linked to brown eyes.”

Brown-eyed men, on average, have bigger mouths, broader chins, bigger noses, and more prominent eyebrows positioned closer to each other, while their blue-eyed brethren are characterized by more angular and prominent lower faces, longer chins, narrower mouths with downward pointing corners, smaller eyes, and more distant eyebrows. The differences associated with trustworthiness are also how our faces naturally express happiness—an upturned mouth, for example—which may explain why we trust people who innately have these traits.

Although the trend was the same for female faces, researchers didn’t find the same correlation between trustworthiness and face shape in women. This result is puzzling, but female faces were overall much less variable than male faces, so it’s possible the statistical analyses used to test for correlation were hampered by this. Or, it’s possible that something else is in play when it comes to the trustworthiness of female faces. The researchers hope that further research can shed light on this conundrum.

Given the importance of trust in human interactions, from friendships to business partnerships or even romance, these findings pose some interesting evolutionary questions. Why would certain face shapes seem more dangerous? Why would blue-eyed face shapes persist, even when they are not deemed as trustworthy? Are our behaviors linked to our bodies in ways we have yet to understand? There are no easy answers. Face shape and other morphological traits are partially based in genetics, but also partially to environmental factors like hormone levels in the womb during development. In seeking to understand how we perceive trust, we can learn more about the interplay between physiology and behavior as well as our own evolutionary history.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2013/01/09/brown-eyes-deemed-more-trustworthy-but-thats-not-the-whole-story/