How to Judge People by What They Look Like
107 pages, $14.19 paperback, free in Kindle
Anthropologist Ed Dutton will be familiar to some readers for his work with Richard Lynn (including the book Race and Sport) and as an occasional contributor to The Occidental Quarterly. He has just published a short book on physiognomy, i.e., the relation between physical features and behavioral tendencies.
We often hear that it is not possible to judge others from appearance, but there is plenty of evidence that we all do so, and not only in the context of mate-seeking. Dutton draws our attention to the General Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where the poet carefully describes the physical appearance of each of the pilgrims, matching these with their personalities as revealed in their behavior and the stories they tell. The Reeve’s thinness of build is supposed to suit his irritability and quickness to anger. The Wife of Bath has a gap between her front teeth to suggest her sexual aggressiveness. There was a whole body of physiognomic teaching in Medieval Europe, where the subject was taught in universities until the sixteenth century. Unfortunately, much of medieval physiognomic lore had an astrological basis, limiting its scientific usefulness.
Might it not be time to reopen the question?
In 1966 psychologists at the University of Michigan conducted an experiment on 84 undergraduates who had never met. They had to sit in complete silence with each other for 15 minutes and rate each other on personality traits, simply by appearance. Each participant also sat a personality test. For three traits — Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Openness — the students‟ appearance-based judgements significantly positively correlated with the actual personality scores (Passini & Warren, 1966).
A later follow up study replicated the results for Extraversion and Conscientiousness using only mugshots. Read more