Your Face May Be Giving Away Your Socioeconomic Status • Psych N Sex

Your Face May Be Giving Away Your Socioeconomic Status

July 18, 2017


Your Face May Be Giving Away Your Socioeconomic Status

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who has the Richest Face of them All?

Did you know that others may be able to tell your socioeconomic status just by looking at your face?

Seriously. But, reading a person’s social class only applies they person have a neutral facial expression, not when expressing emotions like sadness, happiness, or anger. 

Taking this even further; people can judge a “rich” face as more likely to be hired for a job than someone with a “poor” face.

It indicates that something as subtle as the signals in your face about your social class can actually then perpetuate it, those first impressions can become a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy. It’s going to influence your interactions, and the opportunities you have.

Thora Bjornsdottir

Your Face Permanently Reflects Experiences

 Even when we think we’re not expressing something, emotions we have frequently had in the past are still there. 

Emotions portray lifelong habits that become a part of a person’s face by adulthood. Emotions like happiness which can leave lasting lines on your cheeks and which can be stereotypically associated with being wealthy and satisfied.


Nneutral faced photos, devoid of expression were taken in two groups. Using $75,000 as the annual median family income, they divided the groups in under $60,000 and over $100,000. The participants were asked to use their “gut” to identify the people that were “rich” and that were “poor” just by looking at their face.

Race and gender did not affect the results. They found that the participants were able to determine the correct group at about 53% accuracy- that exceeds random chance. The funny thing is that participants were completely unaware why they felt the way they did. The couldn’t identify what cues they were using to make the judgments. 

Then How?

There are neurons in the brain that specialize in facial recognition. The face is the first thing you notice when you look at somebody. We see faces in clouds, we see faces in toast. We are sort of hardwired to look for face-like stimuli. And this is something people pick up very quickly. And they are consistent, which is what makes it statistically significant.


The findings are published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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