Does your face REVEAL your character?
Almost invariably, strangers will judge you by your looks. And you, in turn, probably read certain traits in theirs. How often are either of you likely to be right?
LOOK AT THESE DOZEN FACES—S(
Because people have always been convinced that faces reveal something about character, the human face has been the subject of endless speculation.
Is your face simply an accidental arrangement of bone, muscle and skin housing the sense organs on the front of your head, or is the shape it takes somehow related to the mysterious workings of your mind and emotions? As you grow older, do the pressures of your experiences, accomplishments and appetites visibly mold your features? If someone likes or dislikes you on sight is he drawn or repelled by some real trait apparent in your face, or merely moved by some prejudice of his own?
According to psychologists, we all judge by appearances. We make certain assumptions about people from the shape of their features, from their expressions, from what they do to their faces with cosmetics and beards and spectacles. We call a face honest or benevolent or ambitious, we refer to kind eyes, a generous mouth, a strong jaw. Our stereotypes often prove wrong: Wolfe and Nelson had receding chins, and gross-featured Samuel Johnson was deeply moral and incisively witty.
Detectives, personnel counselors and others accustomed to screening people for a specific purpose, find faces an unreliable guide. Yet recent scientific research indicates that the shape of your face may actually reveal things about your temperament and the way you handle your problems. Dr. John W. Lovett Doust, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, says, “For practical purposes we know nothing at all about the relationship of face and character, but there have been some shrewd guesses.”
He adds that emotional development is directly related to physical development. “The degree of immaturity in a person’s features reflects the immaturity of his personality. It is possible by inspection of an individual to ascertain how completely he has grown up, to judge whether he can face the threats and stresses of life appropriately or like a little child.”
A typical newborn baby has fair hair, a high forehead, blue eyes set wide apart, long curling eyelashes, a snub nose, short upper lip, full mouth, small ears and soft skin. As the child grows, his hair and eyes are darkened by the addition of
VIOUS, SOME INFAMOUS: HOW WOULD YOU RATE THEIR CHARACTERS?
For answers see page 62
pigment, his brow grows smaller as his features take up a larger proportion of his face, his eyes grow closer together, his nose and upper lip grow longer, his mouth widens and his skin toughens.
Lovett Doust says the rate at which you shed these infantile features corresponds to the rate at which you discard the wholly emotional reactions of childhood and develop an adult pattern of behavior. “The fewer such characteristics any given individual possesses at any one time, the less likely is he to possess also the psychological characteristics of emotional immaturity, and the less likely is he to break down with psychiatric disorder,” he says.
"Far more of these immature features are seen in mentally ill people,” he adds. “The worse the illness, the more of these features are prominent. The neurotic characteristically has some infantile features, the depressive still more, and the schizophrenic most of all.”
He points out that emotional development doesn't appear to be related to intelligence. “A high IQ is no guarantee of emotional maturity,” he says. “On the other hand, a clever person can
sometimes turn infantile characteristics to advantage. Most people love babies, and the babyfaced blond film star like Jayne Mansfield or Marilyn Monroe plays on her immaturity because it caters to public taste. The more she looks like a baby, with a high forehead, wide blue eyes, tiny nose, pouting lips and fair hair, the more successful she'll be. Actors, producers and impresarios of all kinds have a much higher proportion of certain immature features. Like children, these people are role players.”
Another theory has been developed by Dr. William H. Sheldon, of Columbia University, who divides humanity into three kinds of personality, cerebrotonic, somatotonic and viscerotonic, and classifies each individual according to the proportion of traits he draws from each group.
The typical cerebrotonic, a tall thin person whose activities are controlled by his mind, has an egg-shaped head and a tense, sensitive face with bright, shifty eyes, high cheek bones, thin lips, large ears and bushy hair. He is reserved, shy. secretive, apprehensive, prone to ailments like toothache, head colds, skin rashes and fatigue, and
likes philosophy, research and an academic life.
The somatotonic is muscular and athletic, with a square head and a handsome, expressive face ideally suited for the stage. He is vigorous, aggressive, reckless, noisy, likes hunting, fast cars, getting up early, cold showers and swimming nude, and is usually too slow-thinking to be a success in business. The viscerotonic has a round head and chubby face with wide eyes, thick lips, snub nose, small ears and fine sparse hair. He is a sociable type who loves food, comfort, parties and people, falls in love easily and makes a good salesman or public relations man. Women are usually a fairly even mixture of these three groups, while men tend to extremes in physical build and temperament.
Sheldon's theories about character being predetermined by a person’s physical features have been criticized by anthropologists.
"What Sheldon forgets is that behavior is learned. not inherited.” says Dr. Edmund Carpenter, professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto. “If an Italian child grows up in a Jewish family he learns Jewish continued on page 61
continued from page 27
A banker says: “I can spot a crook/’ But another money-lender declares: “The face is no guide”
gestures and facial expressions. Man is rapidly becoming round-headed — it's a general trend all over the world — but this doesn't mean that the human personality is changing.”
Sheldon's theory that body type determines behavior leads him to claim that boys become delinquent because of their build rather than their environment and that crime should be curbed not by social improvements but by eugenics. Most criminologists, on the other hand, doubt that criminals are physically different from other people.
Detective Inspector Charles Cook, of the Metropolitan Toronto Police, says, "We use faces for identification, not for interpretation of character. Quite definitely you cannot tell by looking at people if they have ever been involved with the law. Can you tell whether or not they have criminal tendencies? Perhaps many of us have criminal tendencies, and the question is how well we have learned to control them. It has been our experience in our line — homicide investigation — that the person who turns out to be guilty is usually the most unassuming, quiet-mannered individual, like Crippen or Christie, the last person on earth you would guess. Murderers arc often people who have never had any criminal record, but even the hardened repeater doesn’t necessarily look different from anyone else.”
Detective Sergeant William McNcely, one of Cook’s associates, adds, "We often find ourselves watching people at a game or in a restaurant. You can’t assess their character, but you can usually make some guesses about their occupation, and after a while you find you can tell something about the kind of people they are and the kind of life they have.
"On the subway you can tell which of the women are hurrying home to their husbands and which are going home to cook themselves a meal on a hotplate. Some faces tell you that somewhere along the line the person has got sidetracked and missed something.”
A senior Toronto police officer says, "You can’t tell anything from the way they look, but you develop a sort of instinct that tells you whether they're guilty or not." Other policemen claim criminals do have tell-tale facial features.
‘Tve always found that 1 could pick out the faces of people with criminal tendencies,” a retired officer of the Ontario Provincial Police says. "One kind of killer has close-set eyes, and another has a fold of skin at the outer edge of the eye. A lot of juvenile delinquents talk out of the side of their mouths like movie tough-guys, and this habit gets built into their faces. When you interrogate a man the first thing you watch is his throat. If he’s guilty you'll see the pulse throbbing in his neck when you come to crucial points.”
People who lend money disagree as much as policemen about what faces show. “I can certainly tell if a man’s a crook,” a bank manager claims, “but don’t ask me how."
"My personal opinion, after twentythree years of experience, is that face isn’t any guide to character,” says a branch manager of the Household Finance Corporation.
“Face is a reasonable indication of character, but by no means infallible,” says Daniel W. F. Coughlan, director of
probation services for Ontario. “The con man is a striking exception. Some kinds of physical abuse do affect the face. The face of an alcoholic, for instance, is flushed and clotted. Most prostitutes develop hard, coarse faces, but the tremendous
drive of nymphomania is sometimes masked by a sweet, cherubic expression. Do the faces of those who have turned to other types of crime coarsen and degenerate? I don’t think so. Haigh. the English murderer who killed women and
drank their blood, was a handsome man, and Red Ryan (holdup man and murderer) was as charming a fellow as you’d want to meet.”
In a less methodical way. painters and photographers develop their own ideas
about character and appearance. ‘T don’t paint character as such,” portrait-painter Gerald Scott says. “ Something theatrical emerges when you analyze too much. But I generally do a better job if I know the person well. I look for a kind of awareness, a deep inward response. What matters is not the shape of the face but the expression, the person informing the face. Í find actors especially hard to paint. On stage their faces are mobile, full of emotion, but when they pose as themselves they get much more rigid than the average person. When I painted at Stratford the year before last my best portrait was the old man who cleaned the theatre.”
John Steele, former Toronto photographer, now in theatrical work in England. says, “Certainly personality traits show, though I don’t trust the visual without supporting evidence. If a blind man and a deaf man interviewed the same subject the blind man would very likely produce the more accurate description of the subject’s true character. But I have got things in pictures that surprised even me. I can recall occasions when I saw cruelty, kindness, pride, pathos in a portrait that I had not noticed in the person.”
Gaby, the Montreal photographer, says, “I have noticed that when I meet a person who looks very tough on the outside he usually is quite inwardly gentle and uses that harsh look as a shield for protection. I also meet the ones with the welcoming smile and the hardened look in the eyes: beware.”
“Character in a face is a combination of all the features, the wrinkles, bumps, set of the mouth, but mostly the expression and the handling of the eyes,” says Donald McKague who photographed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip for their Canadian visit. "The mouth is shaped by personality too. A well-read person, conscious of words, has tighter lips than a slurring person. I’m convinced that people who have had an easy life generally have faces that are softer, sometimes weaker. The experiences a person has had, whether or not he’s had a lot of sorrow, whether he has had a difficult time attaining his goal, are most plainly written in his face.”
Even people accustomed to assessing faces often make mistakes, "if I like or dislike someone on sight. I’m almost invariably wrong." Gerald Scott admits. “I may see an old man who looks like Albert Schweitzer, a face informed with intelligence, and find he’s absolutely empty. Once 1 painted a Lincoln type with a rugged, chopped-out face and was surprised to find him limp-wristed and effeminate.”
Frank Willis. CBC supervisor of feature broadcasts, says, "When you look for a stranger in a crowd, perhaps someone you’re going to interview, you can pick him out by his clothes and his bearing if you know his occupation and approximate age. But you couldn’t pick him out in a nudist colony.”
The art of face-reading had its heyday in the middle of the nineteenth century, when phrenology was taken almost as seriously as psychiatry is today. The phrenologists claimed that the brain was divided into thirty-seven regions, each with a separate function, and that the shape of the skull over each region indicated whether the corresponding mental faculty was well or poorly developed. People with a peculiar development of the organ of destructiveness (just above the ear) were marked as potential murderers. and men were warned against wives with flat-backed heads (lack of amorousness).
In the United States the first advocates
How did you rate their characters?
(Answers to fjj
mystery photos on page 27)
of phrenology were two theology students, Henry Ward Beecher. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s preacher brother, and a flamboyant fellow called Orson Squire Fowler, who dropped his studies in order to become the self-styled “great gun of phrenology in America." He and his brother Lorenzo made a fortune traveling all over the northeastern States lecturing, drawing up charts of character and reading faces by mail, "from a daguerreotype, the three-quarter pose preferred.” In Ontario O. S. Fowler once read a skull unearthed from an Indian mound.
For a time phrenology was so fashionable that Victoria and Albert had their children examined, and Horace Greeley suggested that railway accidents could be avoided by choosing engineers whose heads denoted caution. Walt Whitman was so pleased w'ith Lorenzo Fowler’s flattering analysis of his huge head that he kept the chart all his life and had it published five times.
But head-reading was gradually discredited by surgeons who removed parts of the brain to show that brain areas were not related to specific faculties in the way that Fowler and his colleagues claimed.
The notion that evil propensities are etched in physical features comes down to us from the nineteenth century psychiatrist Cesare Lombroso, who concluded after examining thousands of convicts that criminals have gross, irregular, degenerate faces with sharp, prominent teeth and bushy eyebrows.
In the Thirties Hollywood took advantage of the myth of the "criminal face” by casting Edward G. Robinson, Peter Lorre and George Raft in gangster
parts. Today manufacturers exploit our beliefs about appearance in more subtle ways. The man in the Marlboro advertisement looks virile (to show that Marlboro is a man's cigarette) and Miss Rheingold is sweet rather than seductive (to show that drinking beer is healthy and neighborly).
These faces convey the appropriate message because, ever since childhood, we have been forming ideas about how different kinds of people should look and judging the people we meet by the way they fit these patterns. To some extent we see what we expect to see. and our view of a face is clouded and complicated by our preconceptions. We may dislike someone who resembles one of our teachers, or vote for a man who reminds us of our father. We think athletes should look tough and clergyman gentle. Because Ingrid Bergman and Elizabeth Taylor look like saints we are shocked when they break conventions, yet we marvel that Jayne Mansfield, a siren type, is devoted to domesticity. We expect one kind of behavior from a professional looking man with horn-rimmed spectacles and another from a bearded beatnik.
Curious beliefs about faces
James F. Hickling, of Canadian Personnel Consultants, says, “In business, a great amount of employee selection is actually influenced by stereotypes. The New Yorker guyed this in a cartoon showing two men, identical in appearance, sitting on opposite sides of a desk, with the caption, 'I like your looks, Jones, you're hired.' In the business world people are still very much suckers for the product image, and I have to be constantly on guard against the tendency to judge by appearance.
“For my purposes, the face is useful only because it gives you an idea of the impression a man wants to create. When he makes the most of certain features, wears a certain kind of tie or glasses or moustache, there's a semiconscious attempt to identify with something. This stereotyping process works both ways. If we look like a certain kind of person other people relate to us in a corresponding way and we either internalize it and tend to become it, or react against it. We think men should be rugged, so a little guy may compensate by sticking out his jaw like a bulldog."
Your face and your personality are closely related because your face influences the way people act toward you and the way you yourself behave. A child who is teased about his ugly nose may grow shy and resentful, while another learns to trade on his engaging smile. A girl may compensate for her plainness by developing a pleasant manner, and in turn her friendly, outgoing attitude may lend her face a softness of line and expression.
Because your own face affects the way people treat you, and thus helps to shape your personality, you develop strong feelings about it. No one can view' his own face dispassionately. Dr. Bruce Quarrington, associate in the department of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, says, “People cherish curious be-
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liefs about their own faces. Quite often people come to us complaining that their voice is strange, high or lisping, and yet they sound perfectly natural. Gradually we find that they really feel that their mouth is weak or their nose too big, and this disturbs them so much that they focus on a less personal complaint like the nonexistent speech disorder."
New York psychoanalyst Dr. Joost Meerloo finds that women who undergo plastic surgery on their faces often feel strangely lost, as though their personality had changed or disappeared. Even small
facial changes — a missing tooth, a black eye, greying hair — are disturbing out of all proportion. Dr. Meerloo explains, "Face and ego are often identified. The nose is the central part of the face. Those who cannot tolerate their noses cannot tolerate their faces, and because of their faces they cannot tolerate themselves.” Our complex and passionate response to faces, our own and others, has a tremendous influence on our behavior. Most of us move from day to day through a sea of faces: faces on subway and streetcar, composed for the ceremony of trav-
eling; faces flashed on television screens, on newspaper pages, the faces of those who direct our destinies or our tastes; faces of our intimates, tender or indignant, charged with emotion, more familiar than our own; and the face we see only in glimpses, caught by a camera or deceptively reversed in a looking glass, the face that marks our individuality for all the world. And whether or not character is really apparent in the face, all of us act on the unconscious assumption that we can read the message written in eyes and flesh and bone, if