Facial Impressions Are Predicted by the Structure of Group Stereotypes

Sally Y. Xie, Jessica K. Flake, Ryan M. Stolier, Jonathan B. Freeman, Eric Hehman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Impressions of other people’s faces (e.g., trustworthiness) have long been thought to be evoked by morphological variation (e.g., upturned mouth) in a universal, fixed manner. However, recent research suggests that these impressions vary considerably across perceivers and targets’ social-group memberships. Across 4,247 U.S. adults recruited online, we investigated whether racial and gender stereotypes may be a critical factor underlying this variability in facial impressions. In Study 1, we found that not only did facial impressions vary by targets’ gender and race, but also the structure of these impressions was associated with the structure of stereotype knowledge. Study 2 extended these findings by demonstrating that individual differences in perceivers’ own unique stereotype associations predicted the structure of their own facial impressions. Together, the findings suggest that the structure of people’s impressions of others’ faces is driven not only by the morphological variation of the face but also by learned stereotypes about social groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1979-1993
Number of pages15
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • face perception
  • individual differences
  • intergroup dynamics
  • open data
  • preregistered
  • social cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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