Social Attributions from Faces: Determinants, Consequences, Accuracy, and Functional Significance

Posted: 9 Jan 2015

See all articles by Alexander Todorov

Alexander Todorov

Princeton University

Christopher Y. Olivola

Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University

Ron Dotsch

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business

Peter Mende-Siedlecki

Princeton University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: January 2015

Abstract

Since the early twentieth century, psychologists have known that there is consensus in attributing social and personality characteristics from facial appearance. Recent studies have shown that surprisingly little time and effort are needed to arrive at this consensus. Here we review recent research on social attributions from faces. Section I outlines data-driven methods capable of identifying the perceptual basis of consensus in social attributions from faces (e.g., What makes a face look threatening?). Section II describes nonperceptual determinants of social attributions (e.g., person knowledge and incidental associations). Section III discusses evidence that attributions from faces predict important social outcomes in diverse domains (e.g., investment decisions and leader selection). In Section IV, we argue that the diagnostic validity of these attributions has been greatly overstated in the literature. In the final section, we offer an account of the functional significance of these attributions.

Suggested Citation

Todorov, Alexander and Olivola, Christopher Y. and Dotsch, Ron and Mende-Siedlecki, Peter, Social Attributions from Faces: Determinants, Consequences, Accuracy, and Functional Significance (January 2015). Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 66, pp. 519-545, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2547496 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143831

Alexander Todorov (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

Green Hall
Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

Christopher Y. Olivola

Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University ( email )

5000 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
United States

Ron Dotsch

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Peter Mende-Siedlecki

Princeton University - Department of Psychology

Green Hall
Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

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