Why We Think That Trustworthy People Look Like Us

Lots goes in to whether we consider someone trustworthy—their flair, their credit rating, whether or not they wear a top hat and Snidely Whiplash twirled moustache. Past studies have shown that we’re more inclined to trust people who look like us. However, a recent study has found that it works the other way too: after we decide that someone is trustworthy, we decide that they look like us.

A study published in Psychological Science has found that when confronted with two different faces, we’re likely to think of the trustworthier one as looking like us. Volunteers had pictures taken of their own faces, and then researchers used image-morphing technology (enjoy) to merge elements of the volunteer’s faces with two other faces. Volunteers then played a bargaining game with two players, with the two faces as their avatars. Of the two players, one always played fairly, and the other always betrayed. After the game, volunteers were asked which of the two faces most resembled their own—and they usually chose the trustworthy player.

Here’s the thing, though: both of the faces contained elements of the volunteer’s face. There was no reason to think of one as more similar than the other.

Except for our own ego.

Photo courtesy of tschundler


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