Personality judgments from natural and composite facial images: More evidence for a "kernel of truth" in social perception

Ian S. Penton-Voak, Nicholas Pound, Anthony C. Little, David I. Perrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

220 Citations (Scopus)


In addition to signaling identity, sex, age, and emotional state, people frequently use facial characteristics as a basis for personality attributions. Typically, there is a high degree of consensus in the attributions made to faces. Nevertheless, the extent to which such judgments are veridical is unclear and somewhat controversial. We have examined the relationship between self-report and perceived personality using both faces of individuals and computer graphic composites. Photographs were taken of 146 men and 148 women who each also completed a self-report personality questionnaire from which scores on the big five personality dimensions were derived. In study 1, we identified a relationship between self-reported extraversion and perceived extraversion in individual faces. For male faces alone, we also found some accuracy in the perception of emotional stability and openness to experience. In study 2, composite faces were made from individuals self-reporting high and low scores on each of the five dimensions. These composites were rated for personality and attractiveness by independent raters. Discriminant analyses indicated that, controlling for attractiveness, independent ratings on congruent personality dimensions were best able to discriminate between composite faces generated from individuals high or low on the self-report dimensions of agreeableness, extraversion, and, for male faces only, emotional stability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-640
Number of pages34
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


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