When We Trust Someone, We Imagine They Look like Us, Says New Study

Katy Winter, Daily Mail (London), November 8, 2013

They say that in life you can only truly rely on yourself.

And, if new research is to be believed, you’re also more likely to trust someone who you think looks like you.

Published in Psychological Science, the research by psychologists at Royal Holloway University shows that if we deem a person trustworthy, we perceive their face to be similar to ours.

So if we trust someone, we not only feel more socially close to them, but imagine they resemble us.

The team from Royal Holloway’s Department of Psychiatry used a computer program to blend each volunteer’s face with two other faces.

They asked participants to decide how much of their face had been used to create the two ‘people’ before they played a game with them both.

In the game one computerised person would betray the participant’s trust, while the other reciprocated it.

Once the game was completed the participants were again asked to rate how much of their own face was contained in each of the two computerised faces.

Regardless of how physically similar the faces actually were, participants reported the ‘person’ who was more trustworthy during the game as looking most like them.

Researcher Harry Farmer says: ‘Recent studies show that when a person looks similar to ourselves, we automatically believe they are trustworthy.

‘Here we show for the first time that the reverse is also true. When a person is shown to be more trustworthy, it can lead us to perceive that person as looking more similar to ourselves.’

These result show that our experienced reality is in fact heavily shaped by our social interactions and may not be as objectively ‘real’ as we think.

Lead author Professor Manos Tsakiris said: ‘Our results show how our perceptions of similarity between us and others extend beyond objective physical characteristics, into the specific nature of social interactions that we have.’


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