Young children judge others based on facial features as much as adults do

ScienceDaily | 4/18/2019 | Staff
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"For centuries, philosophers, scientists and people in general have recognized that facial features fundamentally shape how we judge and behave toward others, yet most of that has been based on intuitions of how adults behave and perceive," said Tessa E.S. Charlesworth, MA, of Harvard University and lead author of the study in the journal Developmental Psychology. "What is surprising is that children, from such a young age, are also swayed by relatively arbitrary facial features in their consequential judgments and behaviors."

Previous research has found that children as young as 3 make decisions about a person's character traits, such as trustworthiness, dominance and competence, by looking at their facial features, according to Charlesworth.

Judgments - Person - Features - Research - Consequences

Although these snap judgments based on a person's facial features may not be accurate or fair, research has shown they can have real-world consequences in elections, hiring and the harshness of criminal sentencings, said Charlesworth. These consequences, however, have so far only been shown among adults looking at others' faces. Whether these consequences also appeared in the behavior of children was, until the present study, unknown.

"Our study showed that children from age 5, but not younger, appear to consistently use facial features in deciding how they should behave toward a person as well as their expectations of the other person's behavior," she said. "In other words, children's judgments from faces do appear to have consequences for behavior."

Researchers - Series - Experiments - Children - Ages

The researchers conducted a series of four experiments with nearly 350 children between the ages of 3 and 13. Some experiments also included samples of adult participants because Charlesworth and her colleagues wanted to compare children's evaluations of faces with results from adults.

In the first set of experiments, the researchers explored whether children would be able to predict what type of behavior would be associated with a specific face. The children and adults...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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