Accuracy in Face Perception: A View from Ecological Psychology


  • Some of the data reported in this article are from a master's thesis conducted by the second author under the direction of the first author. We arc grateful to Jamie Pennebaker for his suggestions regarding this work and his comments on a draft of this manuscript. The article also benefited from thoughtful reviews provided by Reuben Baron, David Funder, Steve Gangestad, Steve West, and an anonymous referee.

should be addressed to Diane S. Berry, Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX 75275.


ABSTRACT It is well documented that people form reliable and robust impressions of a stranger's personality traits on the basis of facial appearance. The propensity to judge character from the face is typically thought to reflect cultural beliefs about mythical relations between aspects of facial appearance and personality. However, recent cross-cultural and developmental research does not support the mythical, cultural stereotype hypothesis. An alternative explanation of the data is that consensus in face-based impressions exists because those judgments are partially accurate. In this article, we explore the theoretical rationale for this “kernel-of-truth” hypothesis, review research that indicates that first impressions based on facial appearance are partially accurate, and discuss the potential mechanisms that may yield links between aspects of facial appearance and personality.