Women that underwent facial rejuvenation surgery (facelift) are perceived as more attractive and more likeable, which reflects in their everyday life and employment. JAMA plastic surgery journal last week reported this saying that it illustrates a phenomenon known as “facial profiling,” an assemblage of cues we gather about other people from visual contact, in particular their facial expressions.
“This is part and parcel of our evolutionary makeup,” says Dr. Gregory Fisher, the expert plastic surgeon at Cosmetic Surgery and Laser Center of Cerritos. “We use it to assess the danger as well as likelihood of success in our daily interactions.” Dr. Fisher wrote extensively on body image and our perception of our selves. “This is another aspect of the same issue,” he told our interviewer, “we tend to approximate not only likenesses and dislikes to the dynamic facial expressions of others, but we also compare those and subliminally turn them inside-out, so as to align them with ours where possible and reject them if we find no likeness or similarity. Then there are what you may call ‘standard features’ of sadness, anger, etc. These were first described in the book entitled Mécanisme de la Physionomie Humaine by Guillaume Duchenne who used electric stimulation to determine which muscles were responsible for different facial expressions. Charles Darwin subsequently used Duchenne’s research in his work on the subject. Darwin famously compared facial expressions in humans to those in animals: whether the cheeks were full and high, thus showing happiness, etc..”
We all know that we judge people’s appearance, thus making our own deductions about their character. Such a judgment is often made within seconds of seeing the stranger’s face for the first time. Judgments about generic characteristics tend to be the same (e.g. perception of threat or welcome in someone’s eyes, their smile etc.). As the new JAMA study shows, these perceptions can be manipulated by plastic surgery, which changes the appearance of a person’s resting facial expression.
For the small study, the researchers took before-and-after photos of 30 white women who had recently undergone various facial plastic surgery procedures, including face-lift, eyebrow lift, neck lift, eyelid surgery and/or chin implant surgery. Then, each individual photograph was rated by dozens of study participants for six personality traits: aggressiveness, extroversion, likeability, trustworthiness, risk-seeking and social skills.
They found that the women’s post-operative photos were rated as being more likeable, higher in social skills, more feminine and more attractive. There was no significant change, however, in perceived trustworthiness, risk-seeking, extroversion or aggressiveness.
Why? “I made similar conclusions twenty years ago,” Dr. Fisher comments. “Face-lifts and lower eyelid procedures are the most telling here. These surgeries can easily increase the curvature of the lips, mouth, stretch the skin an increase the freshness around the eyes. Some of it can even be achieved non-surgically but, of course, the surgery will have more lasting result and a more radical and immediate positive impact on person’s life.”