10 January 2013

Studies Show That Brown Eyes Are Perceived To Be More Trustworthy Than Blue Eyes

A study on how the color of the eyes influence perception of trustworthiness showed that people tend to trust brown eyed people over the blue eyed.

The human brain interprets another person's face and expression to identify origin, emotional tendencies, health qualities, and some social information. This is called face perception. How the brain interprets the face would dictate how to socially interact with the person.

Face perception is domain specific, heritable and independent of the person's cognitive abilities. But it is influenced by environment, ethnicity, and to some extent, culture.

This process is highly adaptive in any social environment, especially for distinguishing a friend from a foe. Face perception provides information on the person's level of trustworthiness which helps the person succeed socially, economically, and in terms of extending his race, reproductively.

The amygdala (the part of the brain that is responsible for the "fight or flight" response) reacts to the information and sends the appropriate signal whether the person can be trusted or not. People with bilateral amygdala damage have problems judging a person's face and ultimately the person's trustworthiness.

The brain picks up many features of the face to process face perception. One part of the face that seems to have influence over how the face is interpreted are the eyes.

Eye Color Influences Perceived Trustworthiness

People view brown-eyed faces as more trustworthy than those with blue eyes, except if the blue eyes belong to a broad-faced man, according to research published January 9 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Karel Kleisner and colleagues from Charles University in the Czech Republic.

Video: Genetics and Eye Color

The study's results attempt to answer a larger question: What makes us think a person's face looks trustworthy? The authors asked study participants to rate male and female faces for trustworthiness based on two features: eye color and face shape. A significant number of participants found brown-eyed faces more trustworthy than blue-eyed, whether the faces were male or female. More rounded male faces, with bigger mouths and larger chins, were perceived as more trustworthy than narrow ones, but the shape of a female face did not have much effect on how trustworthy it appeared to the respondents.

To test which of the two features were more important, the researchers tried a third test, presenting participants with photographs of male faces that were identical except for one difference: eye color. Here, they found that both eye colors were considered equally trustworthy. According to the study, "We concluded that although the brown-eyed faces were perceived as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones, it was not brown eye color per se that caused the stronger perception of trustworthiness but rather the facial features associated with brown eyes."

Shape changes associated with eye color and perceived trustworthiness. Thin-plate spline visualizations of the way face shape correlates with eye color (a–f) and trustworthiness (g–i). Generated face shapes of blue-eyed woman (a) and brown-eyed woman (c) compared to average female face (b). Generated face shapes of blue-eyed man (d) and brown-eyed man (f) compared to average male face (e). Generated face shapes of untrustworthy-looking man (g) and trustworthy-looking (i) man compared to average male face (h). The TPS grids of perceived trustworthiness for women are not shown because shape analysis did not meet statistical significance. The generated facial images (a–f) were magnified 3x for better readability

Credit: Citation: Kleisner K, Priplatova L, Frost P, Flegr J (2013) Trustworthy-Looking Face Meets Brown Eyes. PLoS ONE 8(1): e53285. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053285


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