Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Young children form first impressions from faces

Date:
March 4, 2014
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Just like adults, children as young as 3 tend to judge an individual's character traits, such as trustworthiness and competence, simply by looking at the person's face, new research shows. And they show remarkable consensus in the judgments they make, the findings suggest. Overall, children seemed to be most consistent in judging trustworthiness. This suggests that children may tend to pay particular attention to the demeanor of a face -- that is, whether it is broadly positive or negative.

While it is still unclear exactly when the tendency to infer character from faces first emerges, children as young as 3 tend to judge an individual's character traits, such as trustworthiness and competence, simply by looking at the person's face, new research shows.
Credit: Vladimir Voronin / Fotolia

Just like adults, children as young as 3 tend to judge an individual's character traits, such as trustworthiness and competence, simply by looking at the person's face, new research shows. And they show remarkable consensus in the judgments they make, the findings suggest.

The research, led by psychological scientist Emily Cogsdill of Harvard University, shows that the predisposition to judge others based on physical features starts early in childhood and does not require years of social experience. The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Prior research has shown that adults regularly use faces to make judgments about the character traits of others, even with only a brief glance. But it's unclear whether this tendency is one that slowly builds as a result of life experiences or is instead a more fundamental impulse that emerges early in life.

"If adult-child agreement in face-to-trait inferences emerges gradually across development, one might infer that these inferences require prolonged social experience to reach an adultlike state," Cogsdill and colleagues write. "If instead young children's inferences are like those of adults, this would indicate that face-to-trait character inferences are a fundamental social cognitive capacity that emerges early in life."

To explore these ideas, the researchers had 99 adults and 141 children (ages 3 to 10) evaluate pairs of computer-generated faces that differed on one of three traits: trustworthiness (i.e., mean/nice), dominance (i.e., strong/not strong), and competence (i.e., smart/not smart).

After being shown a pair of faces, participants might be asked, for example, to judge "which one of the people is very nice." As expected, the adults showed consensus on the traits they attributed to specific faces. And so did the children.

Children ages 3-4 were only slightly less consistent in their assessments than were 7-year-olds . But the older children's judgments were in as much agreement as adults', indicating a possible developmental trend.

Overall, children seemed to be most consistent in judging trustworthiness, compared to the other two traits. This suggests that children may tend to pay particular attention to the demeanor of a face -- that is, whether it is broadly positive or negative.

Importantly, the findings do not address the question of whether the judgments the children are making are accurate inferences of character. Rather, they simply demonstrate that adults and children are consistent in the traits they attribute to faces, irrespective of the validity of those judgments.

While it is still unclear exactly when the tendency to infer character from faces first emerges, it might be possible to test younger children with the same computer-generated faces to find out.

"If such inferences take root early in development, as the data suggest, even infants might associate faces with trait-consistent behaviors, such as those conveying prosociality," the researchers note.

Harvard psychology professor Mahzarin Banaji, the senior researcher on the study, said she and her colleagues next plan to examine how social experience over time influences social perception.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. J. Cogsdill, A. T. Todorov, E. S. Spelke, M. R. Banaji. Inferring Character From Faces: A Developmental Study. Psychological Science, 2014; DOI: 10.1177/0956797614523297

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Young children form first impressions from faces." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140304154627.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, March 4). Young children form first impressions from faces. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140304154627.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Young children form first impressions from faces." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140304154627.htm (accessed August 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Work Can Be Stressful, But Is Unemployment Worse?

Work Can Be Stressful, But Is Unemployment Worse?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) A new study shows stress at work can be hard on your health, but people who are unemployed might be at even greater risk of health problems. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google (Kind Of) Complies With 'Right To Be Forgotten Law'

Google (Kind Of) Complies With 'Right To Be Forgotten Law'

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Google says it is following Europe's new "Right To Be Forgotten Law," which eliminates user information upon request, but only to a certain degree. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stroke Signs: Three Hour Deadline

Stroke Signs: Three Hour Deadline

Ivanhoe (July 31, 2014) Sometimes the signs of a stroke are far from easy to recognize. Learn from one young father’s story on the signs of a stroke. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Grain Brain May Be Harming Us

Grain Brain May Be Harming Us

Ivanhoe (July 31, 2014) Could eating carbohydrates be harmful to our brain health? Find out what one neurologist says about changing our diets. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins