Understanding trait impressions from faces

Br J Psychol. 2022 Nov;113(4):1056-1078. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12583. Epub 2022 Jul 26.


Impressions from faces are made remarkably quickly and they can underpin behaviour in a wide variety of social contexts. Over the last decade many studies have sought to trace the links between facial cues and social perception and behaviour. One such body of work has shown clear overlap between the fields of face perception and social stereotyping by demonstrating a role for conceptual stereotypes in impression formation from faces. We integrate these results involving conceptual influences on impressions with another substantial body of research in visual cognition which demonstrates that much of the variance in impressions can be predicted from perceptual, data-driven models using physical cues in face images. We relate this discussion to the phylogenetic, cultural, individual and developmental origins of facial impressions and define priority research questions for the field including investigating non-WEIRD cultures, tracking the developmental trajectory of impressions and determining the malleability of impression formation.

Keywords: data-driven approaches; face perception; first impressions; social cognition models; trait attributions.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Facial Expression
  • Facial Recognition*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Social Perception
  • Stereotyping