What Makes a Face Trustworthy?

You always hear about those examples of the human brain processing something in a fraction of a second, and apparently judging the trustworthiness of someone’s face is one of those times.

According to a recently-published NYU study, your brain decides how much it trusts a face in about 33 milliseconds, or 1/30th of a second—quicker than an eye can blink. Jonathan Freeman, who was in charge of the study, says that “the brain automatically responds to a face’s trustworthiness before it is even consciously perceived.”

Here are the six faces used by the study—three real faces and three that were computer generated (low/neutral/high refers to their level of perceived trustworthiness):

Trustworthy Faces

It’s weird, because I definitely agree—the guys on the right are obviously super nice and the ones on the left spend their free time robbing convenience stores. But that’s totally unfair, since they’re all just normal, expressionless human faces. Sucks to have an untrustworthy face. They study says that prominent cheek bones and high “inner eyebrows” are two of the main trustworthy traits.

Have you ever thought about whether you have a trustworthy face or not?

  • Nicole

    The only feature I really noticed was the downward facing mouth corners for the non-trustworthy guy/ computer generated face.

  • Katherine

    I’ve always thought I must have a trustworthy face because strangers stop me to ask directions all the time.

  • Steve

    So long as we are talking about prejudice on appearances, to me it is always the middle ones that look the most trustworthy. I generally do not take a leap of faith in strangers who look or behave “super nicely”. Like your apple metaphor, they are likely the ones with good looks and bad cores.

  • Tofuriku

    The ‘trustworthy’ guy looks super shifty to me. Like really stuck up and untrustwirthy.

  • Steven L

    The computer generated trustworthy one looks terrified of the world. I wouldn’t trust someone who constantly looks like he’s seeing spiders.

  • Biff Wonsley

    At first I thought the bottom row was kind of a joke/trick to mess with study participants. At least on my smallish tablet they are indistinguishable at first glance. So the obvious conclusion was that people deciding who looks trustworthy is totally random. Knowing that the bottom row are actually slightly different, I still thinks it’s totally random.

    • Crothers McTip

      You should really look at them on a computer. They are different: eyebrows, lips, eye shape, nose width…

  • James

    Like a lot of things, this probably depends on the person and is subjective. It is interesting. Another related topic, is that babies will respond positively, smile and stare, more at “attractive” faces and respond negatively to “unattractive” faces. Its crazy how strongly aesthetics are wired into our brains. This is based on an actual study btw

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