There are many ways to determine whether a person is rich or poor by looking at them – clothing, haircut, cleanliness, for example.
But according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology this week, researchers have found that people can tell if someone is rich or poor simply by looking at their face.
In an attempt to better understand how people infer others’ social class, the researchers tested the whether class (monetary income) could be picked from facial images, finding across four participant samples and two stimulus sets that participants in the study categorised the faces of rich and poor targets significantly better than random chance.
The study showed that people can predict social class using subtle facial cues and use a variety of stereotypes to make their judgments. Attractiveness accurately predicted higher social class in dating profile photos. However, only the stereotype that well-being positively relates to wealth served as a valid cue in neutral faces.
Those with “wealthy” appearances were also more likely to succeed in job interviews, further compounding the financial success of those people and the lack of success of the subjects who didn’t appear wealthy in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
According to the researchers, expressions become etched into faces through lifelong habit, so if, for example, someone has has a pretty laid back, content (i.e. wealthy) life, it shows on their faces.
The findings however applied only to expressionless faces, as opposed to smiling or expressive faces, meaning that there’s still a chance to fake it until you make it so to speak!