According to a new study published this month in JAMA (Journal of American Medicine) Facial Plastic Surgery, procedures such as eyebrow lifts, chin implants and blepharoplasty have an effect other than boosting self confidence; they make people like you more. Before you decide society is now as shallow as ever, there’s actually some science to this.
Although the subject of facial recognition may seem trivial, it has long perplexed scientists and psychologists. There is a disorder called Prosopagnosia, where people completely lose the ability to recognize faces, including those of friends and family, while all other intellectual and visual function remains normal.
This, along with other similar phenomena, serves as evidence that cognitive face perception isn’t a matter of subjective opinion, but rather of complex workings in the fusiform gyrus and temporal lobe part of the brain.
The subject of facial profiling is essentially the biological equivalent of judging a book by its cover. While we may know to ignore these initial judgments in determining one’s personality, they still occur beyond our control.
This instinctual response takes place on the cognitive level and is an evolutionary mechanism to evaluate the intent of others. When you think about it, animals do this on a daily basis when they confront an outsider. Human beings aren’t much different.
The JAMA study explains that our interpretation of resting facial expressions serves as a subconscious indicator of how approachable someone is. If you see a person whose natural facial posture includes a mouth structure that is arched downward and low or sagging cheekbones, they appear to be unhappy.
Someone who exhibits the opposite of these features appears to be happier, friendlier and therefor more approachable. What’s interesting is that while these initial judgments are arbitrary, case studies show that a variety of individuals will judge the same face consistently.
As part of the study, before and after plastic surgery photos were distributed to dozens of participants who were asked to rate the pictures based on traits like sociability, friendliness, trustworthiness, aggression and attraction.
The photographs were of women who had undergone chin implants, brow-, neck- and eyelid-lifts. The “after” photos were rated higher for positive personality traits such as likeability – with eyelid lift patients seeing the highest increases.
There were, however, some “after” plastic surgery photos that were rated more negatively than their “before” counterparts. The theory is that these patients resembled a more plastic, unnatural look post-op. Additionally; there was no correlation between higher ratings for approachability and youthfulness.
Ultimately, the study concludes that certain types of facial plastic surgeries, namely eyelid lifts, can make you appear more approachable in the eyes of others. The key seems to be opting for a happier appearance, rather than a more youthful one.