Study: you can tell if someone is rich or poor by looking at their face

First impressions can tell you a lot about a person, and a new study says those first impressions include whether you're richer or poorer than average. The findings were made by researchers with the University of Toronto's Faculty of Arts and Science; they explain that the determination can be made simply by looking at someone's neutral face without any particular facial expression — in fact, making an expression like smiling eliminates the ability to make this determination.

The reason people are able to make this determination, according to researchers, is because the face will become 'etched' with signs of life-long experiences over time. This is called someone's expression habit, and it is likely to reveal the nature of one's life, or at least significant parts of it. Someone whose face has been shaped by happiness, for example, is more likely to be perceived as wealthy and that perception is frequently correct.

Researchers tested this by having volunteers look at photos of individuals who are making their neutral facial expression. When asked to guess the individual's socio-economic status, the volunteers were accurate approximately 53% of the time, a figure greater than what you'd get from guessing. Furthermore, the researchers found that these facial cues can be imprinted on someone's face by their late teens or early adulthood.

Though guessing someone's status in life based on their neutral facial expression is still inaccurate enough to make it relatively useless in practical usage, it could have a negative effect on that person's life. Someone who experiences hardship early in life, for example, may reveal glimpses of that hardship to others in the way their face has been 'etched,' resulting in negative life experiences. The study found that people whose faces indicate they may be wealthy are more likely to be hired than individuals whose faces indicate they may be poor.

The findings are interesting, but this isn't the first time we've seen a study indicating that biological states could change one's face in a way that negatively affects their life. For example, a study published in 2013 in Biology Letters found that women with high cortisol levels (the 'stress' hormone) were frequently rated as less attractive than women with lower cortisol levels, indicating that experiencing stress could change one's face in a way that makes them less appealing as a potential mate.

SOURCE: EurekAlert