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Effects of facial skin smoothness and blemishes on trait impressions

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People make trait inferences based on facial appearance, and these inferences guide social approach and avoidance. Here, we investigate the effects of textural features on trait impressions from faces. In contrast to previous work, which exclusively manipulated skin smoothness, we manipulated smoothness and the presence of skin blemishes independently (Study 1) and orthogonally (Study 2). We hypothesized that people are particularly sensitive to skin blemishes because blemishes potentially indicate poor health and the presence of an infectious disease. We therefore predicted that the negative effect of blemished skin is stronger than the positive effect of smoothed skin. The results of both studies are in line with this reasoning. Across ratings of trustworthiness, competence, maturity, attractiveness, and health, the negative influence of skin blemishes was stronger and more consistent than the positive influence of skin smoothness (Study 1). Moreover, the presence of skin blemishes diminished the positive effect of skin smoothness on attractiveness ratings (Study 2). In sum, both facial skin blemishes and facial skin smoothness influence trait impression, but the negative effect of blemished skin is larger and more salient than the positive effect of smooth skin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)608-625
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2018



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