Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Trust and physical resemblance

New research shows we are more likely to trust someone if they look like us:

Of 144 students studied, the majority picked individuals who most looked like them to be the most trustworthy.

But when it came to sexual attraction, most picked those with differing facial characteristics, said psychologists at Aberdeen University.

The results suggest that people steer clear of those who "look like family" to avoid inbreeding.

The students were shown a series of paired faces.

However, they were unaware that shortly before the experiment many of the photographs had been subtly altered by psychologists to resemble the student before they looked at them.

"This supports the idea that people - perhaps unwittingly - detect facial resemblance," said researcher Dr Lisa DeBruine.

"It means to them, on some level, that this person is `family' and they are more trusting of them."

The similar faces were also described as sexually unattractive by the students.

"These results back the notion that people trust kin but avoid them in a sexual setting due to the costs of inbreeding."

Dr DeBruine carried out the research at McMaster University in Canada and is now continuing her work within the schools of psychology at Aberdeen and St Andrews universities.

Of course, one of the reasons why we are not sexually attracted to people who look like ourselves is probably due to gender characteristics. For example, if you show a heterosexual man a picture of a woman whose face has been altered to look like his own then it is likely that her face will have masculine characteristics that the heterosexual man would find unattractive.

In the news:

Can you trust someone by looking at their face?

Trust a familiar face, fall for an opposite

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