Misleading first impressions: different for different facial images of the same person

Psychol Sci. 2014 Jul;25(7):1404-17. doi: 10.1177/0956797614532474. Epub 2014 May 27.


Studies on first impressions from facial appearance have rapidly proliferated in the past decade. Almost all of these studies have relied on a single face image per target individual, and differences in impressions have been interpreted as originating in stable physiognomic differences between individuals. Here we show that images of the same individual can lead to different impressions, with within-individual image variance comparable to or exceeding between-individuals variance for a variety of social judgments (Experiment 1). We further show that preferences for images shift as a function of the context (e.g., selecting an image for online dating vs. a political campaign; Experiment 2), that preferences are predictably biased by the selection of the images (e.g., an image fitting a political campaign vs. a randomly selected image; Experiment 3), and that these biases are evident after extremely brief (40-ms) presentation of the images (Experiment 4). We discuss the implications of these findings for studies on the accuracy of first impressions.

Keywords: face perception; social perception.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Facial Expression*
  • Facial Recognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Judgment
  • Male
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult