When it comes to making a good first impression, nothing is more important than your smile. That is, if you want to look trustworthy and approachable. Those are the findings of researchers who developed a computer program to predict the first impression people will get of a face.
Rating Strangers’ Faces
Researchers started their simulation by figuring out what types of first impressions real people got from faces. They collected 1000 random pictures of faces from the Internet and showed them to people who rated them on the basis of 16 different personality characteristics. Each picture was shown to a minimum of six raters to give a range of impressions on facial characteristics, which were chosen to represent intelligence, personality, and other aspects of first impressions, but intended to be reducible to three basic aspects: approachability and trustworthiness, youth and attractiveness, and dominance.
Predicting Face Ratings
Once they’d collected the impressions from real people, it was time to teach a computer to see faces the way people did. They schematized all the face pictures, essentially turning them into cartoon versions of themselves. These versions were fed into the computer along with the ratings. The computer learned to correlate certain features of the face with ratings on the various characteristics.
To prove whether these characteristics were accurate, they then fed schematized versions of new faces into the computer, which rated them. These rating were compared to the ratings of the actual pictures given by human raters. It turns out the computer algorithm determined features that accounted for about 60% of the ratings given by human viewers.
This means that a large portion of the first impression people receive of us could be boiled down to a few important features.
Smiling and Masculine Faces
The program was very good at predicting both trustworthiness and dominance ratings because these are determined by well-defined characteristics. Trustworthiness depends largely on the degree and genuineness of a smile. Dominance, on the other hand, is determined by the masculinity of the face.
How Cosmetic Dentistry Can Give You a More Trustworthy Smile
According to the algorithm, a trustworthy first impression depends on the degree of smile you give, which in turn depends on two things: how broadly you smile, and how well the degree of your smile is perceived.
How much you smile depends a lot on how confident you feel in your smile. If you are uncomfortable showing your full smile because you have damaged, discolored, or crooked teeth, you are unlikely to show your full smile.
Another problem is that even if you smile broadly, others may not perceive it as a broad smile. If your teeth are worn down, you will show less tooth when you smile, which can lead people to perceive that you are smiling less than you actually are. Procedures like porcelain veneers can be used to build up your smile so it shows to the degree that you intend.