Anyone who's been told they have "one of those faces” may want to take a look in the mirror to find out why. It could be because you have brown eyes, but if the latest research is true, those soothing, chocolate-y pools of yours have nothing to do with it.
According to a new study released today from Charles University in Prague, while brown-eyed people may be seen as more trustworthy than blue-eyed ones, it has more to do with their face shape than their actual eye color.
Fun fact: Previous research on the subject has shown that blue-eyed babies are typically more inhibited, shy, socially wary, and timid than brown-eyed babies.
Faces Are Rated Based on Attractiveness, Trustworthiness, and Dominance
The Czech research team has been exploring which facial markers spark feelings of trustworthiness during our mind's subconscious profiling.
They previously determined that eye color affects the shape of a man’s face; they found that brown-eyed men tend to have face shapes that convey happiness, which translates as trustworthiness. Blue-eyed men, the researchers found, typically have face shapes that convey anger, which means they’re viewed as less trustworthy.
The researchers used 80 photographs of brown- or blue-eyed college students studying science at Charles University. The photos were rated by 238 test subjects based on attractiveness, trustworthiness, and dominance. In another round, the eye color of the subjects in the photos was reversed, and they were then rated by a separate group of 106 people.
The faces in the photographs were also analyzed based on the distance between the lips and brow, between the left and right cheekbones, and by the width to height ratio of the faces. This was done to determine which facial features translate into trustworthiness and which, if any, facial features are common among blue- and brown-eyed people.
Here’s another fun fact: women tend to vote more favorably for other women with the same eye color. In one study, women with brown eyes gave lower ratings to women with blue eyes, and vice versa, but the voter’s own eye color played no role in men’s decisions.
Trustworthiness is a trait we look for when determining whether someone is a friend or foe. It also helps with the social aspects of life, including boosting a person's social, economic, and reproductive success.
Even if you're wearing a neutral expression, certain hereditary traits tell others whether or not you’re a shady character. This goes beyond eye color; the researchers found that people with similar eye color also tend to share the same face shape.
"We concluded that although the brown-eyed faces were perceived as more trustworthy than the blue-eyed ones, it was not brown eye color per se that caused the stronger perception of trustworthiness, but rather the facial features associated with brown eyes," researchers concluded in the study, published in the January issue of PLOS ONE.
A trustworthy face, researchers concluded, contains:
- a rounder, broader chin
- a broader mouth with upward-pointing corners
- relatively large eyes
- eyebrows that are closer together
These traits, the study states, are more common among people with brown eyes. However, the traits of blue-eyed people, which are considered less trustworthy, often include:
- an angular and prominent lower face
- a longer chin
- a narrower mouth with downward pointing corners
- relatively small eyes
- distant eyebrows
Researchers did note, however, that there is no stable association between and eye color and a particular face shape.
“To date, downward pointing corners are the facial traits that cause the lower perceived trustworthiness of blue-eyed males,” the study states.
How It All Happens
The researchers propose several possible reasons why brown-eyed people, even when eye color isn’t an issue, are perceived as being more trustworthy than their blue-eyed brethren.
It could be the fact that brown-eyed people represent a “biosocial adaptation that has been established for millions of years,” or the fact that it has become the preferred evolutionary trait people seek in their mates.
The study authors admit that much more research is needed. But why explore this subject?
“Such linkage is worth investigating, given the key importance of perceived trustworthiness in a broad range of social events, from mate choice to business partner selection and to political marketing and democratic processes,” the study concludes.