A recent study published in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery found that women who underwent facial rejuvenation surgery were perceived not only to be more attractive than before, but also more likeable than before the surgery.
The findings illustrate what is known as “facial profiling,” or how our brains collect information based on other people’s visual cues, including their facial expressions.
Dr. Michael Reilly a plastic surgeon at the Georgetown University Medical Center and the study’s lead author, stated that “our judgements of people’s resting facial expressions are an overgeneralization of the dynamic facial expression that they most closely resemble — meaning that if the corners of someone’s mouth are turned down at rest, they are not going to be judged as likeable or as socially skilled since it appears that they are sad or angry. If the cheeks are full and high, they are going to be judged they opposite, since they appear to be happy.”
The new study shows that these perceptions can be manipulated through plastic surgery because it changes the appearance of a person’s resting facial expression.
To perform the study researchers took before-and-after photos of 30 caucasian women who had recently undergone various facial plastic surgery procedures, including face-lift, eyebrow lift, neck lift, eyelid surgery and/or chin implant surgery. They then had the photos rated by study participants for traits such as aggressiveness, extroversion, likeability, trustworthiness, risk-seeking and social skills.
Their findings indicate that the women’s post-operative photos were rated as being more likeable, more feminine, higher in social skills, and more attractive overall. However, there we no significant change in levels of perceived trustworthiness, risk-seeking, extroversion or aggressiveness.
This is likely why the face-lift and lower eyelid procedures resulted in the greatest changes in perceived personality: because these surgeries turn the corners of the mouth up and lessen the look of tiredness around the eyes, making the women’s faces appear more social.
However, some women’s personalities were actually rated more negatively after their surgeries. Dr. Reilly explains that “patients need to be aware of the greater changes that are happening to a patient’s aura when they undergo facial-altering surgery… our theory is that if there is any detectable unnaturalness to the patient’s look after surgery, this can negatively impact their overall aura.”