The Science Behind the Headshot

Photographer's Selfie and unoficial headshot.Photographer's SelfieWhether you wanted it or not, you made complex judgements on me based on my selfie-headshot. Even before reading the first word of this post!

One Tenth of Second!

Imagine you’re home, looking at the pamphlets for the next non-political election of the commissioner of…  You scan through the 5 candidates- you may not feel really qualified to judge their ability based on paper, but you’ve done just that… How?

According to research by Willis and Todorov published in 2006, it only takes 100 milliseconds exposure of a face (a headshot) to make  judgement on attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence, aggressiveness, and more. Adding time may only boosts confidence in the judgement formed but does not significantly change it. As this research mentioned, “trait inferences from facial appearance can be characterized as fast, intuitive, System 1 (unconscious) processes." (1)

Another study from the same team used MRI to suggest that evaluations made from photos happens automatically and systematically even without suggestion (2). It also appears that inferences made when seeing a face are generally not controllable (3).

It is no surprise that humans, whether they are sensible or not, make judgements based on appearance. And although appearance is comprised of many factors, such as the way you dress and the context, by far the most important is the face.

Even if a person’s physical traits play a minor role on the judgments (proportions, age, skin color, etc.) the real driver for the judgments is the emotion expressed by the subject or implied by her traits. (4).

You now know it all :-p.

What does this mean?

  1. Whether you like it or not, you are making judgements of strangers based on their headshot.
  2. The same happens for every other stranger coming across your headshot.
  3. In fact, if your photo is attached to your profile, they will have made judgments on you before even reading the first word of your profile.

Now you can decide if your headshot will work FOR you or against you.

In a next post we'll explore what it means concretely for you

 

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(1) Willis and Todorov, 2006 - First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face
(2) Todorov, Baron, Oosterhof, 2008 - Evaluating face trustworthiness: a model based approach
(3) R. Hassin & Y. Trope, 2000 - Facing faces: Studies on the cognitive aspects of physiognomy
(4) Montepare & Dobish 2003 - The Contribution Of Emotion Perceptions And Their Overgeneralizations To Trait Impressions


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