Posted by Neharika Sabharwal on December 12, 2009

The study gave credibility to the notion that there was a co-relation between personality traits and physical appearance alone, since the participants were able to judge the characteristics of a person quite accurately by looking at his photographs.

Dr. Laura Naumann of the University of California, one of the psychologists who conducted the study stated, “In an age dominated by social media where personal photographs are ubiquitous, it becomes important to understand the ways personality is communicated via our appearance. The appearance one portrays in his or her photographs has important implications for their professional and social life."

Study conducted to assess personality traits
The experiment was designed to interpret the physical features to derive inferences about one’s personality.

For this purpose, strangers were asked to submit two full body photographs. One photo was based on the researchers’ specifications, while the second was a more spontaneous shot of the subject’s choice.

The participants were then asked to rate certain traits of the subject’s personality as reflected by the photographs submitted. Those judgments were then compared to the assessment of personality as seen by the individual himself and his peers.

Prediction of traits found to be accurate
Examining the accuracy of impressions based purely on physical appearance, the researchers found that the observers correctly predicted traits such as self-esteem, ratings of extraversion (gregariousness) and religious bent from the physical appearance.

Additionally, the spontaneously posed photos provided a more accurate impression allowing the participants to correctly identify nine out of the 10 personality traits including agreeableness, emotional stability, openness, loneliness and political affiliation.

The researchers stated, "As we predicted, physical appearance serves as a channel through which personality is manifested.

"By using full-body photographs and examining a broad range of traits, we identified domains of accuracy that have been overlooked, leading to the conclusion that physical appearance may play a more important role in personality judgment than previously thought.”

The research was undertaken by Laura P. Naumann from the University of California, Berkeley, Simine Vazire, Washington University in St. Louis, Peter J. Rentfrow, University of Cambridge, Samuel D. Gosling, University of Texas at Austin.

The study has been published in the Dec.10 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

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