What’s in a Face?
Explore the power of first impressions in our unique photo booth, where you can see and experience your own face in new ways.
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.
By collecting thousands of judgments from people like you, researchers are discovering patterns in how people’s impressions of a face relate to particular facial features.
For example, the more people smile in a photo, the more outgoing they appear to be. Combining this knowledge with cutting-edge technology, we can generate photo-realistic images of new faces that vary along all kinds of physical and psychological dimensions—faces that look real but are in fact just fictional creations.
This technology also allows us to make versions of your photo that show what most people think your photo would look like if it were perceived to signal a certain trait, such as outgoing or trustworthy.
Schedule Your Visit
Are you ready to visit Mindworks? We look forward to having you.
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.