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Your face gives clues to your name, suggesting your name has affected your appearance

25 July 2017

What can we tell about someone from their face? Their favoured facial expressions can hint at their temperament, the weathering of their skin at their life history, their facial hair and makeup at their aesthetic taste.

But now, new research in the journal Attitudes and Social Cognition suggests that we can also intuit their names, because a person’s given name influences their facial appearance in adult life. On the face of it (sorry) this is hard to believe, but the case, made across eight studies, is based on plenty of careful evidence, and also proposes a plausible explanation.

In the first of several experiments, Yonat Zwebner at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his team showed student participants 20 colour headshots of a person with a neutral expression and asked them to choose which of five given names they would assign to each face based on sheer intuition.

The given names included the true name of the person in the photo and four alternatives. When participants picked the name that genuinely belonged to the photo’s subject, they were scored as correct. 

Read more on our Research Digest blog.

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