Joyce Chen ’23
When it comes to meeting someone new, a first impression is especially significant. Naturally, humans want to create an everlasting effect or influence on others from their very first impression; However, there are several drawbacks, one of which being dominance. A study conducted by Laura Clark at the University of Lincoln aims to investigate the judgments of people based on the facial structures of those who are presenting themselves by observing the interactions between humans and macaques.
Humans tend to be more attracted to ‘trustworthy’ faces rather than dominant facial structures. A prime example of this “baby schema” is a preference for babies due to their circular faces, rounded cheeks, and wide eyes. The same facial features can be applied to adults, especially in females; therefore, baby schema creates a natural and instinctive bias for humans to willingly approach and interact with others, as well as to associate cuteness with roundness and femininity. Laura Clark and her team of researchers dedicated their research to understand whether human judgments are based on facial features. The team provided a questionnaire for 227 test subjects to rate 17 monkey expressions based on dominance, trustworthiness, attractiveness, cuteness, healthiness, socialness, activity, age, and sex. Afterwards, they asked the participants for a measure of their subjective proximity for the approach, feeding, and socialization with the macaques. Moreover, the researchers measured the face width to height ratio (fWHR) and baby schema of the monkeys to provide an accurate facial description of each monkey. The researchers discovered, however, that the participants preferred to approach the monkeys to feed them over taking pictures with them or just approaching them. Additionally, people were more likely to approach, feed, or take a photo with the monkeys if the monkeys appeared young, social, female, and trustworthy. These traits were negatively correlated with aggression, while dominance was positively correlated to aggression.
Clark’s study proved that humans and primates have a natural built-in facial signaling system that propels humans to approach friendlier and more trustworthy-looking individuals over dominant ones. This can indirectly prevent them from getting involved in conflict due to the faces looking ‘safer.’ Although facial morphology can be applied to how humans see other human faces, there is still much yet to be discovered regarding the personality of the individual that initiates the approach, and whether or not they are bold or neurotic.
 L. Clark, et al., The importance of first impression judgements in interspecies interactions. Sci Rep 10, (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-58867-x
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