TAIPEI (Taiwan News)--Physiognomy is the assessment of character or personality from a person's outer appearance, especially the face.
Chinese physiognomy or face reading reaches back at least to the northern Song Dynasty period (960-1127). By the fourth century BC, the philosopher Aristotle made frequent reference to theory and literature concerning the relationship of appearance to character. Physiognomy was often used as evidence of criminality in the 19th century after work by an Italian doctor Casare Lambroso.
Experimental evidence has shown that people regularly judge personality from facial features, and that these judgments are shared by others; it appears, too, that the same judgments occur cross-culturally.
Research in the 1990's indicated that three elements of personality in particular - power, warmth and honesty - can be reliably inferred.
A February 2009 article in the New Scientist magazine reported that physiognomy is having a small revival, with research papers trying to find links between personality traits and facial traits.
Nicholas O. Rule, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, was interested in physiognomy and undertook an experiment. He recruited 81 college students, gave them 160 photos of white men and women, aged between 18-35 years old. The photos were of the people's faces, only in black and white. The subjects could not see the person's height, weight, or other characteristics.
Half of the men and women in the photo had annual salary of over US$150,000, (NT$ 4.5 million) the other half had an annual salary of less than US$35,000.
After the students looked at the photos, they had to guess the annual salary level of the person. The results showed test students were right up to 68% of the time.
In an extension of the experiment, subjects looked at eyes, mouth and other facial features, separately. Professor Rule concluded that the mouth and eyes were the most telling features signifying wealth.
The common feature, and one he believes key to recognition of wealth, are the lines left by laughter on the eyes and mouth. A person who laughs a lot, will have a lot of wrinkles around the eyes and mouth due to the repeated muscle action. Such a person may have an easier and happier life.
In an extension of the experiment, subjects were asked to guess the rate of success in job interviews of the same photos. They invariably picked those with better wages as being more likely to be successful in job interviews.