Your Bitchy Resting Face Makes People Think You’re Untrustworthy

New research published in the journal Personal and Social Psychology Bulletin has shown that people tend to think that a bitchy resting face means you’re untrustworthy.

Well, sort of. The study presented pictures of various faces to participants, and they all tended to agree on which faces looked trustworthy, whether or not they could pinpoint why they thought so. The perception of trustworthiness varied when participants were shown different pictures of the same face making slightly different facial expressions, though: The face was perceived to be less trustworthy when the face carried angry-looking traits like downturned eyebrows and a downturned mouth, and more trustworthy when the face looked happy, with upturned eyebrows and an upturned mouth.

So, basically, all those guys who catcall me and tell me I should smile more are on to something. Just kidding. But facial expressions are part of body language, after all, and apparently we can influence the impression we make on other people not just by making eye contact and uncrossing our arms and legs, but also by making an effort to smile, no matter how much it hurts.

An interesting other tidbit from the study, though, is about perceptions of competence. When showed the same face in varying widths, participants identified narrower faces as being less competent and wider faces as being more competent. There’s jack-all you can do about that, of course, so I guess people with narrower faces will just have to make up for their perceived lack of competence by maintaining a cheerful expression. You might look incompetent, but you’ll also evoke trust, so it… sort of evens out? I don’t know.

The ironic takeaway from all of this is that you can fake being trustworthy until someone thinks you actually are, which after all doesn’t seem like the most trustworthy thing to do. Bottom line, humans are weird, we make snap judgments based on probably inconsequential things, and more and more, social interaction seems like a giant strategy session, and that’s exhausting.


[Image via Getty]
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