I hear a lot of people making inferences about others based on their faces, but that's common sense. Are there really properties that could be deduced from ones face?

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    $\begingroup$ possible duplicate of Are there recent theories on physiognomy? $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner May 29 '14 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ Considering my answer is very similar (though inferior) to the answer there ... yes, I agree this seems a duplicate. The answer in the thread @Nick Stauner links to is very good, too. $\endgroup$ – jona Jun 1 '14 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see this as a duplicate. The question linked by Nick asks about more or less permanent facial properties independent of facial expressions, such as eye distance or width/height ratio. This question could be understood to include temporal properties such as skin quality (indicating illness), facial expressions (indication emotions), gaze direction (indicating direction of action, attention, or emotion), etc. Maybe @IgäriaMnagarka could elaborate on their intention a bit? $\endgroup$ – user3116 Jun 18 '14 at 6:44

There is some research in the realm of sex differences and hormonal effects of aggression. The hypothesis meant by that is not so much the rather obvious one that male faces reliably cue "male" behaviour; although that is an important fact. For example, if a person has a beard, they are much more likely to be sexually attracted to women than to men. However, perhaps more in response to the intent than the phrasing of the question, researchers have speculated that "sexually dimorphic facial width-to-height ratio may be an 'honest signal' of propensity for aggressive behaviour". The idea behind this is that a common component, testosterone, underlies and causes both wide, masculine faces and aggressive behaviour.

I personally am not yet convinced of the reliability of this research - for example, in the progress of this research programme, more and more mediators are discovered, which by some might be interpreted to indicate an unreliable finding. However, the basic concept seems to be what you're looking for.

More generally, for now, even the linkage between hormones or neuroanatomy on one hand, and behaviour on the other hand is rarely clear, reliable and strong. Few of the variance in behaviour can be expected to be read off of facial configurations.

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  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't worry too much about mediators if the relationship between root cause and final outcome is robust enough to ignore them, which it seems to be. Knowing the mediators should mostly improve predictions by improving the choice of predictor. In contrast, moderators would pose more threat to the generalizability of theory based on existing research, which seems to explain plenty of behavioral variance via facial width-to-height ratio. I wouldn't call this speculation in light of the statistical evidence. $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Jun 1 '14 at 23:57
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    $\begingroup$ In the light of the amount of QRPs such as post-hoc dredging going on in our fields, the "discovery" of "mediators" upon which the replication of consequential "conceptual replications" often depend makes me vary. $\endgroup$ – jona Jun 2 '14 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ QRP = questionable research procedures? That's fair I suppose, but again, the mediating nature of intermediate factors (in this case mostly testosterone) isn't a threat to the reliability of the relationship between facial WHR and aggression. Evidence of that relationship doesn't depend on direct information about testosterone; adding that information can improve predictions based on WHR, but probably won't reduce their reliability. If WHR related differently to aggression at different levels of other factors, that might reduce the value of WHR alone, but I've seen no such evidence. $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Jun 2 '14 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ You're right that in principle, mediators aren't a bad thing, and that is not what I wanted to imply. Discovering real mediators is an honourable goal! But on a meta level, the incremental discovery of certain conditions that have to be met to "replicate" an effect is often the result of Questionable Research Practices. See people.psych.cornell.edu/~jec7/pcd%20pubs/simmonsetal11.pdf $\endgroup$ – jona Jun 2 '14 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see how this as a matter of good or bad, much less of honor, and would prefer to set such evaluations aside, personally. What conditions are you concerned about here? I could see ethnicity (including both genetic and cultural variation) moderating relationships between beards and behavior, but the only QRPs I can think of with regard to this condition are failing to acknowledge sampling limitations or pursue cross-cultural replication. As for WHR, the only conditions apparent to me are normal testosterone function and male sex. It would be interesting if testosterone function varies... $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Jun 2 '14 at 0:50

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