Reading Faces

Window to the Soul


Leslie Zebrowitz

First Edition • June 6, 1997 • 288 pages


Print ISBN: 9780813327471 • $49.00 USD$86.50 CAN

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Do we read character in faces? What information do faces actually provide? Why do we associate certain facial qualities with particular character traits? What are the social and psychological consequences of reading character in faces? Zebrowitz unmasks the face and provides the first systematic, scientific account of our tendency to judge people by their appearance. Offering an in-depth analysis of two appearance qualities that influence our impressions of others — babyfaceness and attractiveness — and an account of these impressions, Zebrowitz has written an accessible and valuable book for professionals and general readers alike.

The assumption that people’s faces provide a window to their inner nature has a long and distinguished history, eloquently expressed in the works of ancient philosophers, like Aristotle, and great writers, like Shakespeare. Zebrowitz examines this assumption, focusing on four central points. She shows that facial appearance, particularly babyfaceness and attractiveness, has a strong impact on how we perceive an individual’s character traits and on social outcomes in the workplace, in the criminal justice system, and in other settings. She proposes that facial stereotypes derive from evolutionarily adaptive reactions to useful information that faces can provide. She assesses the accuracy of facial stereotypes in light of plausible links between appearance and character. Finally, Zebrowitz suggests ways to counteract the consequences of reading faces.


Leslie A. Zebrowitz is Manuel Yellen Professor of Social Relations and professor of psychology at Brandeis University.

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