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When we see someone’s face, we can’t help but look more than skin-deep. We go beyond picturing their age, gender, and race to automatically imagining their essential characteristics—what kind of person they might be.

This digital exhibit allows you to experience how quickly we recognize physical features—and how quickly we all make snap judgments about character traits. You’ll learn about the powerful allure of these judgments and how scientists have collected hundreds of thousands of snap judgments to reveal the human tendency to agree about character judgments, even when they’re merely skin-deep.

You’ll also be able to transform a version of your own photo, changing its appearance in funny and surprising ways—and take home a digital version of your morphed photo.

Images from the Exhibit

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Further Readings: The Science behind the Exhibit

The scientific investigation of first impressions has profound real-world applications. The technology that enables researchers to create fictional but photo-realistic faces allows for faster research and data collection. This technology also allows researchers to increase the diversity of faces being presented to participants to better represent the population.

  • Todorov, A., Olivola, C. Y., Dotsch, R., & Mende-Siedlecki, P. (2015). Social attributions from faces: Determinants, consequences, accuracy, and functional significance. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 519–545.
  • Ma, D. S., Correll, J., & Wittenbrink, B. (2015). The Chicago face database: A free stimulus set of faces and norming data. Behavior Research Methods, 47(4), 1122–1135.
  • Ma, D. S., Kantner, J., & Wittenbrink, B. (2020). Chicago Face Database: Multiracial expansion. Behavior Research Methods, 1–12.
  • Kleinberg, J., Ludwig, J., Mullainathan, S., & Sunstein, C. R. (2020). Algorithms as discrimination detectors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(48), 30096–30100.
  • Pope, D. G., & Sydnor, J. R. (2011). What’s in a Picture? Evidence of Discrimination from Prosper. com. Journal of Human Resources, 46(1), 53–92.
  • Correll, Joshua & Park, Bernadette & Judd, Charles & Wittenbrink, Bernd. (2007). The influence of stereotypes on decisions to shoot. European Journal of Social Psychology, 37. 1102–1117.

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