Observable Attributesas Manifestations and Cues ofPersonality and Intelligence


  • The research reported in this article was supported by a grant from Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to Peter Borkenau (AZ Bo 774/9–1). We are indebted to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

concerning this article should be addressed to Peter Borkenau, who is now at Psychologisches Institut der Martin-Luther-Universität, Brandbergweg 23, D-06120 Halle, Germany.


In this study, we investigated the relationship of participants' observable attributes to measures of their personality and intelligence; we also studied the ways in which strangers formed their perception of participants' personalities and intelligence. Fifty pairs of intimate acquaintances were videotaped in a standard situation, were administered an intelligence test, and provided self-reports of their personality and descriptions of their partner's personality. In addition, various observable attributes (such as hair color, stature, physical mannerisms) of the targets were measured. Strangers watched the videotapes and rated either the observable attributes or the personality traits of the targets. The observable attributes were then correlated with the personality measures and the intelligence and trait inferences by strangers. Extraversion was the trait with the most external manifestations and the strongest match between cue utilization and cue validity. Intelligence was inferred from visual as well as from acoustic attributes, but only acoustic cues mediated the correlation between psychometric intelligence and perceptions of intelligence by strangers.