Our faces reveal our economic status, study finds

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Look happy because your job prospects may depend on it, say researchers at the University of Toronto.

A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology says people can reliably tell if someone is richer or poorer just by glancing at their neutral, expressionless face.

“Over time, your face comes to continually reflect and reveal your experiences,” Associate Professor Nicholas Rule says Science Daily. “Even when we think we are not expressing something, the relics of those emotions are still there.”

Rule and his doctoral student Thora Bjornsdottir concluded that our usual expressions, such as frequent happiness, were etched on our faces from our late teens. Unsurprisingly, this happiness is seen as a sign of being rich and content.

The researchers grouped the student volunteers by total family income and had them pose for photos with a neutral facial expression. A second group of participants then decided which they thought were rich or poor, based solely on their instincts.

Fifty-three percent of the time they chose correctly, a number that Science Daily says goes beyond random choice.

The newspaper says these impressions lead to prejudices, such as expecting rich faces to be more likely to be hired for a job than poor faces. The researchers said the ability to read a person’s social class only applied to their neutral face – not when participants were smiling or expressing emotion.


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