Coughing, sneezing and clutching the stomach might be obvious signs of sickness, but humans can also spot if someone is healthy simply from a glance at their face, new research suggests.
Scientists have found that signs of a person being acutely unwell – such as pale lips, a downward turn of the mouth and droopy eyelids – are visible just hours after an infection begins.
Number - Cues - People - Health - People
“We use a number of facial cues from other people and we probably judge the health in other people all the time,” said John Axelsson, a co-author of the research and a professor at the stress research institute at Stockholm University.
While previous work has shown that besides overt symptoms – such as sniffing – changes in skin colour can serve as a guide to health, experts say the latest study highlights the ways in which humans might use a host of early signals to avoid contracting infection from others.
Proceedings - Royal - Society - B - Axelsson
Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Axelsson and colleagues described how they injected 16 healthy adults with a placebo and, at a separate point in time, molecules from E coli which are known to rapidly trigger flu-like symptoms. The participants were unaware which injection they had received, and were photographed about two hours after each injection.
The team then showed the portraits to 62 participants who were asked to judge whether the pictured person was sick or healthy, with each picture shown for a maximum of five seconds.
Results - Participants - Person - Someone - %
The results reveal that the participants were able to spot a sick person slightly better than if they were guessing, correctly identifying someone as being unwell 52% of the time. However, more impressively, they correctly labelled individuals as being healthy 70% of the time.
Axelsson said the judgement of whether someone was sick or healthy might vary depending on...
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