Are We More Attracted to “Trustworthy” Faces?

First impressions are everything! Did you know that it takes someone a mere seven seconds to form an opinion of you? And while some grace themselves the chance to trust their second impression, oftentimes, this isn’t the case.

Think back to a moment when you met someone for the first time. What did you think of them? What did their face, body language, clothing, voice, and overall energy tell you, and how did this influence the way that you felt about them? Yes! First impressions are everything.

For that reason, it’s no surprise that a study found that individuals are prone to being more attracted to people who have a “trustworthy” face.

But what exactly is a trustworthy face? And what more specifically is it about these so-called trustworthy faces that make some more attractive than others? Let’s start with the basics…

Why Do We Need Trust in Our Relationships?

When there’s trust, there’s a positive feeling of rapport and connection between partners. It takes away one’s ability to only think about themselves and rather behave in a way that supports both partners. This then leads to feelings of safety and security, as well as love and happiness.

Trust is also a way for both in a relationship to feel less anxious, as they most likely won’t feel the need to monitor or control their partner. They aren’t looking for their significant other to prove themselves or their love and faithfulness, because there is trust. 

Having said that, it’s only natural that one may be more attracted to those who have trustworthy faces.

A Study on Facial Expressions and Trustworthiness 

According to a study by Portuguese psychologist, Mariana Carrito and colleagues, there are certain facial expressions that people often link to trustworthiness. With this knowledge, and the above-mentioned seven seconds, we really do have only a small window of opportunity to “wow” a stranger!

Aside from that, it was found that a lack of trust is one of the top four reasons as to why couples break up!

Four Facial Features That Indicate Trustworthiness 

According to Carrito’s study, these four facial features indicate trustworthiness…

  • Eyebrows: When one’s eyebrows are higher at the centre, it indicates trustworthiness as opposed to when they’re more inverted in a V-shape.
  • Cheekbones: Pronounced cheekbones are more trustworthy than less distinguished cheekbones.
  • Chin: Wider chins are more trustworthy than narrow chins.
  • Nose: When the sellion (where the top of the nose meets the forehead) is less indented, it indicates trustworthiness as opposed to when it is more sunken.

Does Femininity Equal Trustworthiness?

The results of the study could be interpreted as such. During the study, faces that appeared to be more feminine were rated more trustworthy than those that were masculine. 

This could indicate that individuals sometimes surpass their own idea of what trustworthiness means, and instead have an innate belief that feminine-looking individuals, be it male or female, are, by default, more trustworthy.

Adversely, the researchers used anxiety as another measurement to reach their conclusion, which led them to a different result…

They found that those with high levels of anxiety were more likely to find an array of facial expressions intimidating and threatening. And as they viewed faces that slowly morphed from “trustworthy” to “non-trustworthy” using computer programming, they always opted for the “trustworthy” face (according to the facial expressions mentioned above), regardless of gender.

Can We Subconsciously Feel a Sense of Trustworthiness?

Interestingly, our brains are able to judge a person’s trustworthiness before we’ve even consciously made a decision. 

In a study by Jonathan B. Freeman and colleagues, it was found that the amygdala, a subcortical region of the brain, becomes active when we meet someone. The amygdala is also the part of the brain that’s activated when threat-relevant stimuli is presented.  

The experiment was made up of the researchers studying participant’s amygdalas while they viewed images of strangers’ faces. The participants were placed in a brain scanner, and shown the images for only a few milliseconds. 

The process also used something called “backward masking” which removes the possibility of the person forming a conscious opinion due to limited exposure.

These faces were manipulated using computer software, and provided an array of facial features, including those mentioned above (higher eyebrows, pronounced cheekbones etc.).

The results did, in fact, reveal that we can feel a sense of trustworthiness subconsciously, as Freeman said:

“These findings provide evidence that the amygdala’s processing of social cues in the absence of awareness may be more extensive than previously understood. The amygdala is able to assess how trustworthy another person’s face appears without it being consciously perceived.”

Should We Trust People Based on Their Facial Features?

It’s not recommended to trust people based on their facial features for one simple reason: narcissists and anti-social individuals are often able to hide or fake their emotions and facial expressions. This is often how they manage to trick their victims.

And while honest and empathetic individuals may find it impossible to hide their true emotions and feelings via their facial expressions, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

Those precious seven seconds aside, it appears as though our brains are working overtime when it comes to forming an opinion of someone. But it doesn’t hurt to be and display trustworthy facial features!

Psst! Interested to learn more about facial expressions and body language? Have a peak at our recent blog, 18 Flirty Facial Expressions and Body Language Men Actually Respond to.

Helena is a sex-positive freelance copywriter in her early 30’s from Cape Town, South Africa. She’s travelled and lived in various countries in Asia and Europe for almost a decade and continues to live her dream — travelling the world independently as a copywriter. Having written for various companies and magazines within the industry, she has extensive knowledge in the field of sexual health, the escort industry, and sex toy marketing.