So say researchers at the University of Toronto, who found that others can reliably tell if men or women are living large or just getting by, simply by gazing at their poker face — one that’s neutral and expressionless.
“Over time, your face comes to permanently reflect and reveal your experiences,” said Nicholas Rule, the study’s co-author. “Even when we think we’re not expressing something, relics of those emotions are still there.”
That conclusion was reached using two groups of students. One was divided by annual family income — under $60,000 (poor) and above $100,000 (rich). These subjects were photographed with neutral faces.
Another set of students looked at the photos and determined by looks alone who was well-off and who wasn’t. They were able to guess right with 53% accuracy, which slightly exceeds random chance. Results were not impacted by race, gender or how much time students spent making their decisions.
The results are for poker faces only, because smiles, frowns and grimaces can influence readings.
“Students who are just 18-22 years old have already accumulated enough life experience that it has visibly changed and shaped their face to the point you can tell what their socio-economic standing or social class is,” Rule said.
The implications of research reaches into social and professional activities, said Thora Bjornsdottir, co-author of the study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Judgments and biases about a person’s face are “going to influence your interactions, and the opportunities.”
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