Reverse Correlating Social Face Perception

Ron Dotsch, Alexander Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

179 Scopus citations


Reverse correlation (RC) techniques provide a data-driven approach to model internal representations in an unconstrained way. Here, we used this approach to model social perception of faces. In the RC task, participants repeatedly selected from two face images-created by superimposing randomly generated noise masks on the same face-the face that looked most trustworthy (or, in other conditions: untrustworthy, dominant, or submissive). We calculated classification images (CIs) by averaging all selected images. Trait judgments of independent participants, as well as objective metrics, showed that the CIs visualized the intended traits well. Furthermore, tests of pixel clusters showed that diagnostic information resided mostly in mouth, eye, eyebrow, and hair regions. The current work shows that RC provides an excellent tool to extract psychologically meaningful images that map onto social perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-571
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


  • facial expressions
  • measurement
  • person perception
  • social cognition
  • social judgment


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