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Young children judge others based on facial features, just like adults do

Children as young as 5 use facial information to determine how to behave toward people Source: American Psychological Association

Just like adults, children by the age of 5 make rapid and consistent character judgements of others based on facial features, such as the tilt of the mouth or the distance between the eyes. Those facial features also shape how children behave toward others.

  • Previous research has found that children as young as 3 make decisions about a person's character traits, such as trustworthiness, dominance and competence, by looking at their facial features.

  • Although these snap judgments based on a person's facial features may not be accurate or fair, research has shown they can have real-world consequences in elections, hiring and the harshness of criminal sentencings.

  • These consequences, however, have so far only been shown among adults looking at others' faces. Whether these consequences also appeared in the behavior of children was, until the present study, unknown.

Overall, children 3 years and older, as well as adults, almost always (88 percent of the time) made the stereotypically expected character judgments of the faces
  • They selected the trustworthy-, submissive- and competent-looking faces as "nice," and the untrustworthy-, incompetent- and dominant-looking faces as "mean."


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