Put on a happy face 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 whether somebody is richer or poorer just by glancing at their expressionless, neutral face.
"Over time, your face comes to permanently reflect and reveal your experiences,” Associate Professor Nicholas Rule told Science Daily. "Even when we think we're not expressing something, relics of those emotions are still there.”
Rule and his PhD candidate Thora Bjornsdottir concluded our habitual expressions, such as frequent happiness, become etched on our faces as early as our late teenage years. Not surprisingly, that happiness is perceived as a sign of being wealthy and satisfied.
Researchers grouped student volunteers by total family income and had them pose for pictures with a neutral facial expression. A second group of participants then decided which ones they thought were rich or poor, based only upon gut instinct.
Fifty-three percent of the time they chose correctly, a figure that Science Daily says exceeds random choice.
The paper says these impressions lead to bias, such as expecting the rich-looking faces to be more likely to get hired for a job than the poor-looking faces. The researchers said the ability to read a person’s social class applied only to their neutral face — not when participants were smiling or expressing some emotion.