What is it about?

People are quick to form judgments of other people's social class standing (for example, whether they are rich or poor) from very minimal information such as accent, clothing, and even facial appearance. People also associate social class standing with particular stereotypes (like that the poor are incompetent). Here, we tested what kinds of facial appearance leads to judgments of higher versus lower social class, and found that longer, narrower faces with upturned mouth corners and longer, more protruding features and lighter, warmer complexions were perceived as rich (vs shorter, wider faces with downturned mouths and shorter, flatter features and darker, cooler complexions were perceived as poor). Importantly, each of these aspects of facial appearance involved in perceptions of social class also affected perceptions of related stereotypes - for example, longer and narrower faces are also judged as competent, and faces with upturned mouths are also judged as warm and trustworthy.

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Why is it important?

People who are perceived to be of high or low social class standing (e.g., rich or poor) are also often judged as having advantageous or harmful traits, such as (in)competence and (un)trustworthiness. Such judgments are formed even just from facial appearance, which can have substantial downstream consequences. Here, we reveal the facial features that underlie these related subjective judgments. Our results provide new insights into what makes someone look rich or poor, and how these judgments relate to positive and negative stereotypes. Together with previous research, these results suggest that certain people could look rich or poor based on inferences related to stereotypes (e.g., that rich people are competent). We anticipate that our results could be used for interventions designed to address bias.

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This page is a summary of: Social class perception is driven by stereotype-related facial features., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, January 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/xge0001519.
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