First Impressions: Integrating Faces and Bodies in Personality Trait Perception

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2021-02-04

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Abstract

Social perception from physical appearance (e.g., faces, bodies) has received extensive and increasing attention in social cognition research. Previous studies on first impressions have shown that isolated faces and bodies, in neutral expressions, can elicit personality trait judgments (e.g., trustworthy, dominant, and lazy). However, it is unclear how faces and bodies contribute independently to whole person perception, despite this topic’s significant ecological value. The research on contributions of faces versus bodies is related to another research line that is also understudied: face-body integration. That research has investigated whether face and body perception are influenced by the whole-person context. Face-body integration research has been applied to investigating perceptual tasks of expression perception and identification, but not to trait perception. By bridging the two research lines - first impressions from physical appearance and face-body integration - the current study examines whether and how face and body perception integrate in trait perception. In Experiment 1, I found that both face and body perception contribute to the whole person trait perception, and that the relative contributions of faces and bodies vary across traits. In Experiment 2, I found that the whole-person context influences trait perception from the face (Experiment 2a) and body (Experiment 2b). With the current work and prior knowledge, I propose a novel framework to account for face-body integration in trait perception. Together, the current study serves as a prerequisite for understanding person perception by investigating the independent roles of the face and body perception and their integration.

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Trait intercorrelations, First impression (Psychology), Social perception, Face perception

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