Unreliable Or Trustworthy: What Does Your Face Say About You?

Do you judge a human book by its cover? Assign people personality traits based on their faces? Better be careful if you do.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

New research highlights the risk of judging people’s characters based on their facial expressions:

Those assumptions affect how we’re treated.

For example, if we’re blessed with a welcoming expression, we’re more likely to be seen as competent and trustworthy. Therefore, we win elections, become CEOs, and bring more boys (or girls) to the yard.

Uh oh, spaghettios. This doesn’t bode well for introverts.

The Introverted Face

The article discussing this research features an example of an introverted vs. extroverted face (The Introverted Face). To avoid using their image, I’m posting one of my own. My apologies for its American Horror Story scariness. Lord knows I would never have posted such hideous self-photos in the past, but with age comes blissful indifference. And, given I’ve spent years hearing:

What’s wrong?

Are you mad?

Why so serious?

Smile, it can’t be that bad

I decided seeing the issue addressed was worth the personal embarrassment.

I warned you...

I warned you…

So, So Somber

Many times, an introvert’s natural expression is one of seriousness. Flat. Emotionless. Even frowning. We can’t help it. While our brains churn and burn, our faces fail to keep up. But according to the article, our natural expression risks others seeing us as incompetent and unreliable. Ouch.

Although we might not be able to define it, I suspect most introverts sense this over time, so we learn to adopt an extroverted mask. Or at least we try to. Some are perhaps better at it than others, because when my husband saw the above photo of my extroverted attempt, he burst out laughing.

Thanks, hon.

But our stern expressions don’t mean we’re angry. Or worried, or depressed, or ready to throw you off the building. In fact, when you get to know us—or should I say when we let you get to know us—you’ll see our faces come alive.

See? We can be fun. So elect us as politicians. Make us CEOs. Listen to our opinions.

Just don’t invite us to any parties.

Oh, one more thing. A piece of advice for you men out there, advice that might save your life. When you pass women on the street (or the hall or the breakroom), don’t tell them to smile. We don’t like that. At all. You wouldn’t tell another man to smile, would you? So please extend the courtesy to us. Otherwise, we might just throw you off that building after all…*

What’s your natural expression?

*Women, it goes both ways. We shouldn’t tell men to smile either. Unless we’re a photographer.

*     *     *

Rubin4Carrie Rubin is the author of The Seneca Scourgea medical thriller. For full bio, click here.

275 Responses to “Unreliable Or Trustworthy: What Does Your Face Say About You?”

  1. marymtf

    Hey good lookin’ yourself, but I’m not judging you. 🙂
    As an introvert myself, I wouldn’t mind people liking me (or not) once they get to know me. But human nature being what it is it still I can’t help being drawn to an opposite and more friendly face because that face is more likely to draw me out of myself than a Gloomy Gus cousin would.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I agree–introvert or not, we all tend to gravitate to the more welcoming face. Guess I better keep working on mine…

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Like

  2. realnrawreilly

    Reblogged this on realnrawreilly and commented:
    Carrie’s blog on Introverts I can totally relate. I consistently hear “your too pretty to be angry or sad” or “smile” or something to that affect. I am an Introvert and we think way too much hence the seemingly angry or depressed expression. Introverts are consistent thinkers and worriers and Extroverts will never understand.

    Like

  3. Heather

    I’m told I smile a lot–and I’m an introvert! I’m working on my poker face though … I’m afraid I have a fairly readable thought bubble sometimes 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Sometimes it’s hard when we wear our hearts on our sleeves, but on the other hand, if you smile a lot, that might make up for it. 🙂

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  4. annabellefranklinauthor

    I used to get sick of hearing ‘Cheer up, it might never happen’. People don’t say it so much now – probably because my face has graduated from introverted to psychopathic and they’re afraid to speak to me at all. Last time I took a selfie I looked like a Muppet – literally. 😀

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Ha! Loved your comment. People don’t tell me to cheer up as often anymore either. I thought it was because I was getting older. But maybe it’s like you point out: I look psychopathic and scare them!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  5. benzeknees

    I’ve always wondered why I get so many people asking me if I’m angry about something – now I can see why! My natural expression is very much like your introvert expression. I don’t have laugh lines around my eyes like people even a lot younger than me. Thank goodness I don’t have to worry so much about this anymore since I don’t go out in the work force! Super interesting post!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! My brother and I like to joke that we’ll get less wrinkles because we never smile. I have some nice frown lines in my forehead though. But my bangs cover those…

      I’m sure people think I’m always grumpy when actually, I’m rarely grumpy. I’m just always deep in thought.

      Like

  6. Zen A.

    I’ve heard that my default expression mixes seriousness with a bit of surprise… though I think the fact that I have big eyes plays into this. People tend to quickly put their faith in me though, so I guess I must be doing something right!

    Like

  7. Kate Johnston

    I have become overly self-conscious about my facial expressions in public. I think I am one of those people who tries to look approachable, and I know it is because of my kids. I want them to have friends and a healthy social life (as they see fit for themselves), and I don’t want other moms thinking I’m unfriendly and thus unwilling to let their children come over to play. Kids actually are the reason behind many of my personality alterations.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I hear you on that one. We often become ‘other’ people for our kids, people we may not always be comfortable being. I branched out a lot for my kids, especially when they were younger–volunteering at their school, etc. Wasn’t usually comfortable, but as a parent I felt it was necessary.

      Like

  8. Anne Chia

    Hahaha Carrie we have the same expression! I always look really stern (even I noticed this) and you should see me sleeping, I look even sterner haha. People do warm up so much more to smiley faces though. Ah well

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh dear, I’m not sure what I look like sleeping. I imagine it’s not pretty. Some things are better off not known. 😉

      Thanks, Anne!

      Like

  9. bruce thomas witzel

    What a great post Carrie. Thanks for sharing this powerful research, and your presentation of it had me laugh out loud a few times. At times I have felt that Introverted is like a “dirty word.”

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      It does feel like that sometimes, doesn’t it? Every year I hear from teachers how my oldest son needs to “come out of his shell.” I know they mean well, but I have to remind them that introverts never come out of their shells. They just learn over time to put on a social mask, a skill that is always exhausting.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

  10. earthriderjudyberman

    Carrie … I enjoyed your thoughtful post. My face, in repose, probably is more serious than I feel. So I do try to ‘smile’ more.

    I’ve seen men – and women – who have a pleasing external look. But, internally, I equate it to an attractive foil wrapped around a deceptively rotten chocolate. It is inside what counts.

    Think: Tim Bundy. Many, to their eternal regret, thought he was trustworthy. Of course, that mean old codger in your neighborhood or workplace could be just as deadly.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      That’s a great point. Just because someone looks happy and welcoming doesn’t mean they’re not sour and dour underneath. It goes both ways for sure. Thanks. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. butimbeautiful

    My face apparently makes me look stupid or mentally retarded! But it’s interesting, in the course of my work I see a lot of old people, and some have a very censorious expression, with deeply drawn down mouth – I wonder if it reflects their view of things (clearly sometimes it does). Anyway I think you probably do get to look like what you think about, eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oops, my comment posted too soon. I was saying as we get older, our faces might more easily frown. For those of us who already look so serious, that probably doesn’t bode well for us!

      Like

  12. Valentine Logar

    I am somewhere between an introvert and extrovert. Generally, my face is more serious and candid pictures of me usually catch that face. People who see these usually ask why I always look so ‘sad’, ‘mad’ or otherwise preoccupied. I am none of these things, well maybe preoccupied with my own thoughts or trying to block the idiocy around me.

    Like you though, once I let someone in I am not mean (usually). I think I would have made a great politician (except for all my skeletons and that I love my family).

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      It’s strange to give off an impression that isn’t accurate. I think of how many times in the past people have misconstrued my mood, and I feel bad. I’m more aware of it now, but still, if I’m deep in thought, I will likely look unhappy or mad. Maybe we should carry placards that we can raise during these times: “I’m not angry. I’m just thinking.” 🙂

      Like

  13. iamtheinvisiblehand

    I hate it when people tell me to smile! Really, whatever face I’m making is no one’s business, even if it looks like I’m posing for a WANTED poster.

    That being said, introverts (or maybe it’s just me) do not have what I call a “poker face”. This means that whatever is going through our mind is clearly reflected on our face – no masks available. As an introvert who dislikes beating around the bush, it comes in handy, but I can see how others may (and do) get offended, especially if you’re trying to praise your friend’s newly remodeled kitchen but you’re face is conveying they exact opposite….

    BTW, that photo was hilarious.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I think you’re right about that. It’s difficult to put on a face that’s opposite of what we feel. That can indeed get us in trouble. Great point.

      Like

  14. Carol Louise Wilde

    Oh, yes. So familiar. My natural expression is almost grim. I get, “what’s wrong?” quite a lot. And I work hard at smiling, too, only to get caught before I can tack that smile on.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Ha, I know the feeling. It takes a conscious effort to mold my face into something more welcome. The problem is, once I get deep in thought again, the extrovert face is gone.

      Like

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