We have all heard it said that you cannot judge a book by its cover. This saying is often applied to judging things other than books, like how trustworthy people are. A new research study that was reported in Frontiers in Psychology demonstrates that when children judge the trustworthiness of another person, that person’s beauty is a determining factor in whether they are perceived to be trustworthy.
The research study involved more than 130 children between the ages of eight and 12. The children were shown 200 images of male faces that were generated with a software program. The children were asked to rank the trustworthiness of each face. One month later the children were again shown the same faces and asked to rank the attractiveness of each face. Researchers were able to learn that children were more likely to consider attractive people to be trustworthy.
Interestingly, not only have researchers found that adults also find attractive people to be more trustworthy, but the connection between perceived beauty and trustworthiness actually increased with age. The study also found that consistency in judging trustworthiness increases with age. It also found that girls are more likely than boys to be able to judge a person’s trustworthiness.
Researchers have previously studied the relationship between beauty and trustworthiness with babies and adults, but the relationship among children had not been studied before. Now we know that elementary school-aged kids are also judging how much they should trust someone based on how good they look.
There may be no rational reason to decide to trust someone based on their looks alone, but it appears to be hard-wired into the human brain. Attractive equals trustworthy is often the assumption we make during that brief first impression.