For most people, elective plastic surgery on their face is undertaken to look younger or improve on nature (nose jobs). Face lifts, eye lifts, Botox, various fills and more can make someone appear younger than before, but that may not be the only reason to purse them. For some, elective plastic surgery may make sense, more sales and new friends. A new study shows that plastic surgery on the face can make someone appear to be more likeable or trustworthy.
The old saying to someone scowling or snarling that “your face will freeze like that” may not technically be true. But the fact is that some people as they age may look chronically unhappy, unsmiling or more unattractive to others. In a perfect world, it would not effect their relationships, success at work or other interactions. But, the reality is that looks do matter, particularly in snap judgment situations. Study after study has shown that physical features either have a strong correlation to certain personality types or are perceived to have one. A furrowed brow is often interpreted as mean; heavy eyes may appear less than trustworthy. The research written up in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery publication shows that surgery can make a difference.
In the study conducted by Georgetown University’s Dr. Michael Reilly and his colleagues, people were asked to rate photos of 30 women either before and after they had cosmetic procedures. The photos were all of white female patients who underwent surgical procedures between Jan.1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2013. The 30 women had face-lifts, eyelid surgery, eyebrow lifts, neck lifts and/or chin implants.
The 60 pictures (30 preoperative and 30 postoperative) of the patients were split into 6 groups of 5 before and 5 after photos. No patient was included more than once in any photo pile. Then, 24 study participants rated each photo based on six personality traits (aggressiveness, likeability, extroversion, trustworthiness, social skills and risk seeking), besides rating the women pictured for attractiveness and femininity.
The goal was to ascertain how changes from plastic surgery affecting perseptions about the patients’ likability and other so-called facial profiling. The participants were not told the intent of the study, which was to see if plastic surgery on the face made the women appear more likeable.
The women pictured scored higher on their social skills and likeability in postoperative photos than they did in their pre-op pictures. Since the post-surgery photos showed women who presumably looked younger, the study shows that age-related bias impacts how people perceived the women. The study also suggests that aging-related feature changes can make someone seem to be more anti-social or to have less-than-desirable personality traits.
Reilly explained, “Aging reverses positive dynamic expressions like smiling,” which brings cheeks up and tightens some facial muscles. When people age, their faces look less like like they are smiling when in rest, which – according to the research – means that older looking people appear less friendly or approachable.
While it might appear artificial to have people rate faces on personality traits, the fact is that people decide to trust a saleperson or start a conversation with a stranger based on similar judgments daily. Study participants may have felt forced to make a judgment because of being in the study. Another criticism of the study is the small sampling size. Likewise, the controlling against ethnic bias by the use of only white female patients’ pictures should be replicated with other races or men.
There is no doubt that facial plastic surgery changes how people appear to others, but the difference with this study was testing to see if they seem more likeable or trustworthy. It shows that the outcomes of surgery to look younger affect perception of more than age.
By Dyanne Weiss