Inferring Character From Faces: A Developmental Study

Emily J. Cogsdill, Alexander T. Todorov, Elizabeth S. Spelke, Mahzarin R. Banaji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Scopus citations


Human adults attribute character traits to faces readily and with high consensus. In two experiments investigating the development of face-to-trait inference, adults and children ages 3 through 10 attributed trustworthiness, dominance, and competence to pairs of faces. In Experiment 1, the attributions of 3- to 4-year-olds converged with those of adults, and 5- to 6-year-olds' attributions were at adult levels of consistency. Children ages 3 and above consistently attributed the basic mean/nice evaluation not only to faces varying in trustworthiness (Experiment 1) but also to faces varying in dominance and competence (Experiment 2). This research suggests that the predisposition to judge others using scant facial information appears in adultlike forms early in childhood and does not require prolonged social experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1132-1139
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • cognitive development
  • open data
  • open materials
  • physical appearance
  • social cognition
  • social perception


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