13 things people can figure out about your personality just by looking at you (according to science)

Have you ever wondered what people are thinking when they first meet you?

Well, wonder no more, because science has some answers!

Research suggests that within mere seconds of meeting you, people form impressions about your personality. Intriguing, right?

But what exactly can they figure out?

Here’s the kicker: It’s not just about whether you seem friendly or not. 

Read on as we delve into 13 things people can suss out about your personality, just by looking at you.

Spoiler alert: it’s quite fascinating!

1) Your dominant personality traits

Have you ever felt someone “gets” you upon meeting you? Science supports this!

A study in the “Journal of Personality” shows that people can accurately guess traits like extraversion and self-esteem by merely viewing a person’s photo.

It appears our personality influences our non-verbal behavior, style of dress, and habitual facial expressions, all contributing to the vibe we give off.

2) Your confidence level

Believe it or not, confidence (or lack thereof) shows up in our body language.

In a 2009 study published in the “Journal of Nonverbal Behavior,” researchers found that posture and expressive behavior could give away a person’s confidence levels.

A firm handshake, standing tall, and maintaining eye contact?

These are tell-tale signs of a confident person!

3) Your emotional state 

This one probably doesn’t surprise you. People can easily gauge your emotional state from your facial expressions and body language.

Scientists have spent decades studying this.

The classic research by Dr. Paul Ekman showed that there are six basic emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise) that are universally recognized across cultures.

So, your smile really can light up a room… or reveal if you’re having a rough day.

4) Your trustworthiness 

Trustworthiness is something people instinctively try to gauge upon meeting someone. 

Interestingly, a study in the Journal of Neuroscience found that our brains make judgments about trustworthiness almost instantaneously.

In particular, the shape of a person’s face can influence perceived trustworthiness.

People with high inner eyebrows, pronounced cheekbones, and a wide chin are often seen as more trustworthy.

It’s worth noting that these are unconscious judgments and aren’t always accurate!

5) Your attractiveness 

While attractiveness is subjective and influenced by personal and cultural standards, certain elements seem universal.

According to a study in the journal Current Biology, symmetry is considered universally attractive as it may signal good health and genetics.

Other factors like grooming and dressing style can also contribute to perceived attractiveness.

6) Your competence

First impressions are incredibly important, and they can be formed quicker than you might think. 

According to a Princeton study, people form impressions of competence, based on facial appearances, in as little as 100 milliseconds.

Such rapid judgments stem from our evolutionary need to assess a stranger’s potential threat or advantage.

The judgment of competence could be influenced by a person’s facial structure and expression. 

People with a mature face, signified by a strong chin and high eyebrows, combined with confident expressions, are often seen as more competent.

Additionally, people who appear alert, who carry themselves with good posture, and who make firm eye contact are often perceived as more competent.

7) Your aggressiveness

Our ability to gauge aggression in others is an evolutionary trait developed for survival.

This assertion is supported by research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

The research has shown that people can accurately assess someone’s capacity for aggression based on facial structure alone.

For example, men with wider faces and pronounced brow ridges are often perceived as more aggressive.

Interestingly, this study found that the perceptions are remarkably accurate when compared with self-reported measures of aggression.

So, while it’s not foolproof, there is a basis in our instinctual reading of facial structures to predict potential aggressiveness.

8) Your success level

While it’s true that success is a subjective term and looks different for everyone, there are certain societal cues and norms that people often associate with success.

The way a person presents themselves can often give away clues about their professional success and social status.

Multiple studies have shown that people dressed in high-status clothing—such as tailored suits or luxury brands—are often perceived as more successful.

However, it’s not just the clothes that make the man or woman.

Even minute details like a person’s accessories, their hairstyle, the quality and condition of their shoes, or even the way they carry themselves can give clues about their professional status. 

The adage “dress for the job you want” might have more truth to it than you think.

9) Your openness to new experiences 

Openness to experience is a personality trait associated with curiosity, creativity, and a preference for novelty.

Research suggests that people high in this trait often present themselves in unique and unconventional ways.

They may have eclectic fashion sense or distinctive ways of speaking or moving.

So, if you often catch people’s eyes with your unusual style or charm, they might correctly guess that you’re quite open to new experiences.

10) Your conscientiousness 

Conscientiousness is a fundamental personality trait that is associated with being organized, dependable, and disciplined.

People who possess this trait are often methodical and careful in their approach to their environment, and this attention to detail extends to their personal appearance as well. 

According to a study published in the journal “Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts”, people who were rated as more conscientious often appeared neat, organized, and methodical in their dress and grooming.

This meticulousness can be seen in the way they coordinate their outfits, the tidiness of their hair, or even the cleanliness of their shoes.

If you’re someone who pays great attention to your appearance and keeps everything about you tidy and organized, observers might accurately perceive you as a conscientious individual.

11) Your extroversion/introversion 

Contrary to popular belief, extroversion and introversion aren’t just about whether you like to party or prefer quiet nights in.

Instead, they’re about where you draw your energy from: others or your inner world.

Extroverts gain energy from social interaction and are typically more expressive and outgoing. 

On the other hand, introverts recharge by spending time alone and are often more reserved in their demeanor.

Multiple research studies, including one from the University of Texas, have found this:

People can accurately guess whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert from your appearance, the way you carry yourself, and the degree of your engagement with others.

12) Your moodiness

Our emotional state can have a substantial impact on our behavior, and this is something that others can pick up on, sometimes even subconsciously.

According to a study published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” people can accurately perceive emotional stability—or the lack thereof—from thin slices of behavior. 

These cues might be subtle, ranging from fluctuations in tone of voice, variability in facial expressions, inconsistency in actions, or even restlessness in body language.

If you’re prone to mood swings or emotional instability, others might pick up on this through these small, yet revealing signs.

Even without knowing the details of your life, people can gain a pretty accurate understanding of your emotional state just by observing your behavior.

13) Your likability

Likability isn’t as subjective as you might think.

In fact, there’s scientific evidence supporting what makes a person likable.

One significant factor is a genuine smile, which according to a study published in the “Journal of Nonverbal Behavior,” can significantly impact first impressions.

Another study from the University of Cambridge found that people who maintain good eye contact are often perceived as more likable.

Furthermore, researchers from the University of Oregon found that active and attentive listening could also boost likability.

Therefore, these non-verbal cues—a genuine smile, good eye contact, and attentive listening—can create an impression of likability, making others feel more comfortable around you.

How accurate are these first impressions?

First impressions, formed in mere seconds, can be astonishingly accurate, but they’re not infallible. 

Studies, including one from the Association for Psychological Science, have demonstrated something:

Our initial perceptions of people, based on just a quick visual scan, can provide us with surprisingly accurate insights into their personality traits.

However, it’s crucial to remember that people are complex beings, with layers of personality that might not immediately be visible.

While these signals can give us clues, they don’t provide the complete picture.

In essence, while first impressions can guide us, they should not be the only basis for our judgments about someone’s character.

There’s a wealth of information to be gained by getting to know someone more deeply over time.

So while first impressions matter, let’s not forget the value of second, third, and even hundredth impressions.

How to make a positive first impression

Leaving a positive and lasting first impression is often crucial, whether you’re at a job interview, a first date, or meeting new people.

Science suggests that simple things like maintaining good posture, dressing appropriately, and giving a firm handshake can significantly impact how others perceive you.

Smiling genuinely, making eye contact, and showing an interest in the other person also go a long way.

Most importantly, be yourself—authenticity resonates.

In the grand scheme of things, while it’s intriguing to know that people can gather so much about us from just looking, remember that your essence goes far beyond first glances.

As fascinating as these scientific findings are, let’s not forget that every person is a beautiful, intricate tapestry.

We are woven from a multitude of experiences and traits that can’t be entirely understood from a single encounter.

You are so much more than a first impression!

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Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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