Academia discovers (a tiny percentage of) face reading

Academia is beginning to catch on to face reading.

“For example, the spaces between and arrangement of structures more traditionally considered as “features” (e.g., the space between eyes and eyebrows) may be a cue to some aspects of perceived personality.”

That quote is from an interesting (but flawed) paper on the accuracy of intuitive face reading compared to self-reported personality.

What makes the study noteworthy is that they used composite photos to eliminate ideosyncratic factors, and found that the face reading was still just as accurate, if not more so.

Unfortunately, two flaws prevent this paper from proving anything significant.

Self reporting is inaccurate

This study relies on self-reported personality traits. That introduces huge inaccuracy.

One amusing result was that female faces are harder to read. They might as easily conclude that females have less accurate self-assessments.

The only reliable self-report dimension for females was extraversion. Since introversion is Neanderthal, this indicates that maybe only Neanderthal females tell the truth, or possess accurate self knowledge.

(I mean true introversion, i.e. the functional end of the Asperger’s/Autism spectrum, not Cro Magnon low-status shyness.)

The 5-factor model is junk

“It is clear that our work and earlier work demonstrate that the five–factor model may not be the best tool for assessing accuracy of personality trait attribution to faces.”

I agree with the study: the 5-factor model is BS. It is based on regression to discover the independent factors influencing how people answer self-reported personality quizzes. Self reporting is not an accurate way to evaluate personality, so the regression is meaningless.


The result of using a bogus 5 factor model and a bogus self-reporting baseline?

“Our data indicate that the accuracy seen in personality perception is above chance, although still quite low.”

So face reading is still accurate, even if two out of three components are garbage. In other words, it’s an effect so big even blinkered psychology PhD’s can find it.