Kids form first impressions from faces

Washington, March 5: Researchers have said that kids as young as 3 tend to judge an individual’s character traits, like trustworthiness and competence, simply by looking at the person’s face.

According to the findings, they show remarkable consensus in the judgments they make.

The research, led by psychological scientist Emily Cogsdill of Harvard University, shows that the predisposition to judge others based on physical features starts early in childhood and does not require years of social experience.

Cogsdill and colleagues wrote that if adult-child agreement in face-to-trait inferences emerges gradually across development, one might infer that these inferences require prolonged social experience to reach an adultlike state.

They said that if instead young children’s inferences are like those of adults, this would indicate that face-to-trait character inferences are a fundamental social cognitive capacity that emerges early in life.

To explore these ideas, the researchers had 99 adults and 141 children (ages 3 to 10) evaluate pairs of computer-generated faces that differed on one of three traits: trustworthiness (i.e., mean/nice), dominance (i.e., strong/not strong), and competence (i.e., smart/not smart).

After being shown a pair of faces, participants might be asked, for example, to judge “which one of the people is very nice.”

As expected, the adults showed consensus on the traits they attributed to specific faces. And so did the children.

Children ages 3-4 were only slightly less consistent in their assessments than were 7-year-olds .

But the older children’s judgments were in as much agreement as adults’, indicating a possible developmental trend.

The study has been published in journal Psychological Science. (ANI)