Have you ever noticed how sometimes we get an inexplicable gut feeling of honesty from someone we have just met? And how other times we immediately categorize someone as deceitful and sly after a quick glimpse? What is it that influences our perception of trustworthiness?
I bet you will not believe me right away, but eye colour plays a major role, according to a recent study by Karel Kleisner et al. (2013). I admit I cheated a bit: it is not simply colour that causes this trustworthiness perception, but rather the facial morphology linked to the eye colour. Brown-eyed people generally have a baby face, with big eyes, eyebrows close to each other, a broad and round chin, and a broad mouth with the corners pointing upwards, reminding of a smile. On the other side, if you have blue eyes you are likely to have the opposite features: angular, long- chinned, narrow- mouthed faces with downward pointing corners, small eyes and wide apart eyebrows.
In this study, the scientists first showed several pictures of blue and brown- eyed males and females to a group of people who were asked to rate their perception of trustworthiness. Interestingly, while the correlation eye colour/face shape and trustworthiness feeling was extremely evident in male faces, the link was less evident for women. After that, Kleisner and colleagues modified the eye colour in the previous pictures and asked a second group to judge them. This way the team could understand if the perceptions were influenced by the eye colour itself or by the facial features related to the eye colour. It turned out that while in the first experiment people gave brown- eyed faces a higher ranking, in the second part the now blue-eyed faces (which had brown eyes in the first test) with the facial features of brown- eyed people were the preferred ones.
Of course, this experiment may be highly influenced by our ethnicity, by what we are used to see. Therefore, the link between face structure and trustworthiness may be different in other parts of the world.
But now the question is up to you: would you trust your partner more if he/she would have blue or brown eyes? If so, do not fear for your relationship, there is a way out: coloured contact lenses!
Photo: Flickr, dulcelife
Kleisner K, Priplatova L, Frost P, & Flegr J (2013). Trustworthy-looking face meets brown eyes. PloS one, 8 (1) PMID: 23326406
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brown eyes, eye colour, facial features, honesty, perception, trust, trustworthiness, blue eyes