REVIEW OF REVIEWS

What Does Your Face Show?

Facial Characteristics Indicate Much Regarding the Character and Ability of Their Owner.

April 15 1920
REVIEW OF REVIEWS

What Does Your Face Show?

Facial Characteristics Indicate Much Regarding the Character and Ability of Their Owner.

April 15 1920

WHAT does your face show? It shows much as to your character and aptitudes, states Dr. Holmes W. Merton. Fred C. Kelly, writing in the People’s Favorite Magazine, tells some interesting facts regarding Dr. Merton’s investigation in the fascinating science of character as shown in physiognomy:

“When nature got up such a big variety of faces the object probably was not alone to avoid the monotony of too standardized a face, but because the features seem to be a logical and convenient means of revealing individual abilities and characteristics. Even an unobservant person can tell something about a man by looking at his face. If the man is woefully ignorant, or instinctively selfish, and cruel, his face is certain to indicate it. On the other hand, if a person is highly intellectual, no matter if he goes about with shabby clothes and dishevelled hair, looking like a tramp, his intelligence will show in his face. If a man has deceit, or dishonesty, or an oversupply of self-approbation in his make-up one does not have to search very deeply to find such traits recorded in his countenance. Likewise the average pugilist looks so unlike a clergyman that no special knack at reading faces is required to tell one from the other.

Those who come in daily contact with a large number and variety of people, gradually acquire, more or less unconsciously, the ability to read traits and abilities in the faces of others. Frequently we term it intuition when we note something in a man’s face that we do not like. But it probably is less intuition than observation—observation coupled, perhaps, with the memory of a similar facial composition in some other man whom we had learned, maybe through experience, to distrust.

Inasmuch as we can read in a man’s face the more obvious facts about his character, how much more could we read there if we only had the ability to discern all that the face shows? When we fail to size up a man by looking into his countenance, the trouble is not so much with his face as with us.

If we had the skill and experience, necessary to read all that is in a face, we might learn much, not only about a man's integrity or morals or temperament, but also about his natural abilities—whether he would make a better linguist than mathematician, whether a better poet than blacksmith. And there’s "no end to the fun that a woman would get out of such knowledge, especially if she were faced with the selection of two candidates for her favor of radically different characteristics.

But, unfortunately, there are no half dozen “secrets” which, if put into your possession, would make you a master reader of other people’s characters. On the contrary, modern scientists have decided that there are hundreds of fine points that enter into the science of facial analysis. There are a few who have made painstaking and prolonged researches into the subject, and of these one of the best known is Doctor Holmes W. Merton, for many years widely recognized as a wonderfully practical vocational counsellor.

Some thirty-five years ago, Doctor Merton began to study the human face with a view to ascertaining how much it revealed of character and mentality. Like a true researcher, he devoted himself at first solely to getting the facts, rather than to any plan for making practical use of them. Later on, he sought to determine not only how to read the mental faculties of an individual in his face, and their order of predominance, but to work out the mental requirements of the various vocations, in order to select the work that best fits the man.

To begin with, he took hundreds of pictures of men of known characteristics and abilities and studied them to learn if there was any definite relation between their talents and their facial contour. Or, in other words, he sought to find out if there is a relation between specific mental faculties and specific regions of the face. He satisfied himself that there is such a relation.

Gradually, by thousands of tests, he ascertained just what part of the face shows the strongest indication of a given capability. For example, he says, if you look at the photographs of fifty famous lawyers, you may find that the faces are of such a variety that they seem to have little in common. But, on closer examination, you discover that they do have a noticeable similarity in the relative size and contour of those features which indicate mental qualities necessary for success in the legal profession, such as analytical ability, language faculty, and caution. But the fact that a trial lawyer, for instance, requires abilities widely different from those of a corporation counsel makes it impossible to set forth a diversity of traits that all would possess in common. So it is with persons in any other line of activity. In the less important mental faculties, the facial indications may vary as much as among men in an assortment of vocations; but when it comes to the abilities that are required for success in one particular line, one may discover significant points of similarity.

Indians of the warring tribes have conspicuously high cheek bones because, for some reason, Nature arranged that high cheek bones should indicate the faculty of caution. And so, declares Doctor Merton, if you study the faces of streetcar motormen, as a class, you are quite likely to discover that most of those who hold their jobs long, have fairly high or wide cheek bones—because caution is a necessary qualification for success in their work. This does not mean, of course, that no man without high cheek bones will apply for a place as a motorman, or that running a street car suddenly develops high cheek bones. But those who have not a tendency to high cheek bones probably lack sufficient caution, and, if they chance to obtain jobs as motormen, either do not like the work or, in the long run, do not give satisfactory service and sooner or later shift to something else.

Anybody who has ever looked at pictures of baseball players on a sporting page must have noticed that there is a striking resemblance in the general type of the faces. One rarely sees a ball layer without a fairly broad, long chin—because it happens that such a chin indicates a knack of handling one’s self in motion, a quick co-ordination of the brain and muscles, and a ready apprehension for the probable results of action. A ball player usually has a gift of so-called “motion form,” that is, the ability to foresee what size curve will be described by a ball in motion, and hence he is able to judge where the ball will come down. Nearly every ball player, if he owns an automobile, is a good driver, by virtue of this sense for estimating the direction of moving objects, and because of his ability to make his muscles do instantly what his brain says should be done.

By the same token, a good ball player might be a good locomotive engineer—provided he also possessed the necessary mechanical ability. The chances are that he would bring to such work a moderate degree of caution and vigilance, but not enough caution to make him timid.

Doctor Merton warns against the mistake of trying to read faces or determine character by means of glittering generalities. And so, to “read a face,” you must take all of its characteristics into consideration. It is impossible to say that any one particular feature reveals much about a man’s sum total of ability. We sometimes hear that a wide head and protruding brows indicate a deep thinker; that a Roman nose indicates a fighter; a square jaw, bulldog tenacity, and so on. These simple items in the face, declares Doctor Merton, not only do not necessarily indicate the specific characteristic attributed to them, but such snapshot judgments are also subject to the mistake of overlooking the influence of opposing or supporting faculties. Moreover, each feature may itself indicate several different trait tendencies. Any one trait may be modified or offset by another.

For instance, a man may have one feature that would indicate too much aggressiveness. If this were allowed to go unchanged, he would be heedless of other people’s rights and probably would become a general, all-around nuisance. But his aggressiveness is overcome, perhaps, by unusually large senses of amity and caution. He is more than ordinarily disposed to be friendly with those with whom he comes in contact, and his sense of caution makes him strive to avoid doing that which would hurt his popularity. Strong sensual appetite may be held in check by high ideals. Then, too, all that the various faculties show may be modified by low quality of intellectuality. The dominant mental ability in a man of scant education and low intellectual quality may not equal even the lowest natural ability in a man of high intellectual quality. The abilities which might make one man merely an average carpenter could make another man of superior intelligence a good architect.

It is recognized that a large nose which curves outward from the face and then in again is likely to indicate native shrewdness. But, obviously, one could not say that every man with a Napoleonic or aquiline nose could fill a place where real, upper-case shrewdness is required. Unless he has sufficient education and other essential qualities, he might at best be only a slick man in a very small game. In other words, he might be able to conduct a little popcorn stand, but would make a fizzle of running a big bank.

When you see a girl who has gone far beyond her means to buy herself expensive clothes or gaudy jewelry, she is not unlikely, Dr. Merton declares, to have an upper lip that extends well forward all the way from the nose to the mouth, and perhaps has a slight tendency to curl upwards.

While there are no short cuts to detailed character analysis which a person, only casually interested in the subject, may infallibly apply to himself and others, there are, nevertheless, certain general rules which ordinarily hold true and which can give you at least a hint of the character of the person concerned.