Can you tell a person’s personality just from their appearance? Some experts believe it is possible.

I attended a strict all-girls school in my teens and even then you could tell who the introverts and extroverts were, just by observation. The introverts were quiet, with closed-off body language and kept themselves to themselves.

On the other hand, the extroverts had open body language, were gregarious and tended to be much louder. But this is body language. Now experts believe there is a direct link between your appearance and your personality.

So, do our personalities affect our appearance or is it the way we look that drives our personality?

Why appearances are important

In today’s society, looks and appearance are becoming increasingly important. We now know that our physical appearance can afford us advantages or disadvantages in society. For example, it is true that attractive people get preferential treatment. Attractive people receive more attention in school, they are given the best jobs, get the best partners, earn more money, and so on.

We spend millions of dollars straightening crooked noses, pinning up sagging jowls, making breasts bigger, generally correcting nature’s mistakes. All to enhance our appearance. Obviously, there’s a lot riding on what we look like. But how does our physical appearance affect our personality? Can the way we look actually shape our personality?

How can our appearance affect our personality?

Well, let’s just think about it for a moment. Say you have one extremely attractive young man and a man with facial disfigurements. Attractive men have more friends because we all gravitate to good looking people. Attractive people are popular, they are well-liked, loved even. They benefit from the ‘halo effect‘ which stipulates that good-looking people have other redeeming qualities as well.

On the other hand, a person with disfigurements has a huge disadvantage. They are more likely to be bullied,  shunned by peers, ignored by teachers, not able to get a good job and be on the outskirts of society. So how would this affect their individual personalities? There is one theory that suggests that it is our physical traits that influence how our personality develops.

Facultative personality calibration theory posits that our personality develops according to our appearance. In other words, our height, weight, how attractive we are, all affect the way we act. So how does this work in real life?

Physically stronger men are more extroverted

Well, consider two body types; one very masculine and a weaker body type. Studies show that men with extrovert personalities tend to have masculine body types.

This would make a lot of sense. We associate extroversion with risk-takers and adventurous behaviour. You need to be physically active to be adventurous. If you are adventurous, you are more likely to meet more people, the more people you meet, the more sociable you become. And so on, It is a knock-on effect.

If you have a body type that enables you to take risks and be more adventurous, then you can afford to be daring and bold. Conversely, men who are less muscular are less likely to indulge in activities that require a strong body frame.

Attractive women are more extroverted

Studies also show a link between attractiveness and personality. Attractive people are more outgoing. They are more likely to be extroverts. Again, this makes sense. If you are good-looking, you get better treatment, a better reception, a nicer reaction than less attractive people do. But is this merely because of our appearance?

One study examined the relationship between attractiveness and self-image with attractiveness as assessed by other people. It found that when an attractive person believes that they are good-looking, there is a direct link with an extroverted personality.

In other words, a positive self-image leads to outgoing behaviour. So it isn’t just about how we appear to others.

“Although women who consider themselves attractive are actually more likely to be sociable and less shy, it could be their positive self-image that is the reason for this.” – Christoph von Borell, the study author.

It is how we perceive our appearance that affects our personality

It is more about how we view our own appearance that influences our personality. In other words, if we think we are attractive, we are more likely to exhibit extrovert tendencies. But it’s more than that. Despite our 21-century obsession with looking perfect, extroversion and introversion are linked to other factors.

“It seems that judgments of physical attractiveness do not lead to a behavioural adaptation in women, perhaps (and hopefully) because other aspects of women, say, how intelligent or witty they are, play an important role, too.” Borell

In fact, there are links between personality and other traits. Men that are more active tend to be more muscular and this increases their assertiveness. There is also a link between taller men and extrovert behaviour. As for women, increased lung function is linked to extrovert activities.

Borell believes there are many different reasons, as well as appearance, that contribute to our personality.

“For example, that people who are not valued for their looks compensate with being especially outgoing. For men, the association between appearance and behavior could be wired more directly, since being strong or muscular could be thought of as prerequisite for being active, assertive, or physically aggressive.” – Borell

It is weird. We think of our personalities as something that comes from within. It is a reflection of our beliefs and our desires. It’s cerebral. Nothing can sway or influence it. To think that our personality can be shaped by our appearance just reminds us we are still pretty low on the evolutionary tree.

References:

  1. www.bbc.com


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