People view brown-eyed faces as more trustworthy than those with blue eyes, except if the blue eyes belong to a broad-faced man, according to research published January 9 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Karel Kleisner and colleagues from Charles University in the Czech Republic.
The study's results attempt to answer a larger question: What makes us think a person's face looks trustworthy? The authors asked study participants to rate male and female faces for trustworthiness based on two features: eye color and face shape. A significant number of participants found brown-eyed faces more trustworthy than blue-eyed, whether the faces were male or female. More rounded male faces, with bigger mouths and larger chins, were perceived as more trustworthy than narrow ones, but the shape of a female face did not have much effect on how trustworthy it appeared to the respondents.
To test which of the two features were more important, the researchers tried a third test, presenting participants with photographs of male faces that were identical except for one difference: eye color. Here, they found that both eye colors were considered equally trustworthy. According to the study, "We concluded that although the brown-eyed faces were perceived as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones, it was not brown eye color per se that caused the stronger perception of trustworthiness but rather the facial features associated with brown eyes."
Kleisner K, Priplatova L, Frost P, Flegr J (2013) Trustworthy-Looking Face Meets Brown Eyes. PLoS ONE 8(1): e53285. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053285
Public Library of Science: http://www.plos.org
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