Something very important that we do everyday, but hardly think about, is deciding whom to trust. Trusting the wrong person can often end up in personal or financial crisis such as being in an abusive relationship, choosing a dishonest business partner, or leaving a party with the wrong person and getting date raped… the list goes on. It would be convenient if suspicious individuals had a sign on their head telling us their bad character qualities, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. So how do we avoid trusting the wrong person? Interestingly, several studies have been conducted that actually show us how our brain is hard-wired, which could play a large part in this process!
How the Brain Judges Character Based Off of Facial Appearance
A study was conducted in 2003 by Princeton researcher, Alexander Todorov, where pairs of pictures were showed to a 1,000 people asking for who looked more competent. Secretly, these people were actually candidates running for political offices or past candidates. Across several studies, the outcomes were the same when participants answered questions of a person’s competency to where official race outcomes could be predicted with 70% accuracy.
Another study’s results showed that we make snap judgments on someone’s character based off their facial features, which can denote dominance and trustworthiness. Furthermore, our judgments about that person can be colored from then on. More specifically, a trustworthy face commonly had upturned eyebrows and lips, whereas a lesser trustworthy person had eyebrows pointing downwards and lips that curled at the ends.
In another study this August of 2014 by the Journal of Neuroscience, the study concluded that individuals are said to take a mere three hundredths of a second to determine a person’s trustworthiness. The study deliberately showed real faces as well as computer generated faces to people and the results showed that a trustworthy person has prominent cheekbones and high eyebrows, while dishonest people have sunken cheeks and furrowed brows. Although there is no evidence of people like this in real life, it is what the results showed our snap judgments to be.
So Do You Go With Your Gut Feeling?
Ultimately, it seems we cannot “go with our gut” on who to trust because our brain is making judgments based on superficial characteristics of someone that does not prove their character or behavior.
How to Make Better Choices on Whom to Trust
The biggest thing you can do is not make impulsive decisions when it comes to making a big decision on, say, an investment, a major purchase, hiring someone, or even leaving a party with a stranger. The best thing to do is give yourself time to step back from the situation and think long and hard about it before making a decision. Even consult a friend who you know gives wise advice.
Beware of People Who Move Too Fast in Relationships
If you meet someone and they quickly fall in love with you, or want to be your best friend, beware! Typically these people are impulsive in nature and haven’t thought the situation through fully. Secondly, they may be projecting a fantasy about you that is not real, or is more intense than reality. A good thing to do in this kind of situation is to ask the person to back off a little bit, or instill your own sense of space and boundaries and make sure they stick to them.
As Yourself What This Person is Projecting…What is the Real Them?
Sometimes, if someone is projecting a sense of confidence, or is fun-loving or sexy, this could make you feel more important. But, you might step back and see if their eyes wander around the room. Maybe they are good at doing this to whomever they want and it has less to do about you. Do they remember what you tell them? What are their underlying values in what they say? Are they close to their friends and family? These sorts of questions can protect you tremendously in the long run.
For more information on this topic, please visit psychologist, Melanie Greenburg’s website, http://melaniegreenbergphd.com/marin-psychologist/