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Face Value


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Table of Contents

Prologue 1 1 The Appeal Of Physiognomy 1 The Physiognomists' Promise 9 2 Single-Glance Impressions 28 3 Consequential Impressions 48 2 Understanding First Impressions 4 The Psychologist's Trade 73 5 Making The Invisible Visible 93 6 The Functions Of Impressions 112 7 The Eye Of The Beholder 131 3 The (Mis)accuracy Of First Impressions 8 Misleading Images 147 9 Suboptimal Decisions 168 10 Evolutionary Stories 185 11 Life Leaves Traces On Our Faces 203 4 The Special Status Of Faces 12 Born To Attend To Faces 219 13 Face Modules In The Brain 233 14 Illusory Face Signals 246 Epilogue: More Evolutionary Stories 264 Acknowledgments 269 Notes And References 271 Image Credits 311 Index 319

About the Author

Alexander Todorov is professor of psychology at Princeton University, where he is also affiliated with the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. His research on first impressions has been covered by media around the world, including the New York Times, the Guardian, the New Yorker, the Daily Telegraph, Scientific American, PBS, and NPR. He lives in Princeton.


"Faces are what newborns naturally seek. They are the objects of our love, trust, fear, longing, and memory. They inspire poetry and the visual arts. We rely on faces to reveal mood and character, allowing them to influence hiring decisions, criminal convictions, and elections. In this magisterial work, Todorov takes us on a tour of the face, its role in human affairs, and its power to influence and mislead. You'll always look at faces, but never the same way again."--Eldar Shafir, coauthor of Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives
"Todorov's work is fun and somewhat shocking on the surface, but the deeper implication--that much of our decision-making and behavior is unconscious and unknown to us--goes well beyond his findings about the biases we bring to evaluating the faces of other people. Face Value shows that as much as we think of ourselves as rational creatures in control of what we do we are just as often influenced by eyebrows and chins. Terrifying and enjoyable."--David Byrne, founder of Talking Heads and author of How Music Works
Face Value
is an excellent book, with many surprising insights and many compelling illustrations that offer a complex aesthetic experience."--Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow
"From one of the world's great experts on the human face, this is a book that illuminates the eternal belief that the face holds the secrets to a person's character. Todorov is a brilliant teacher of the history of this great myth, as he patiently unveils for us the rich and fascinating science of the psychology of face perception. I am humbler for having read this book, with a truer understanding of the mind of my species."--Mahzarin R. Banaji, coauthor of Blindspot: The Hidden Biases of Good People
Face Value
is an impressive, engaging, and enjoyable survey of the fascinating scientific research on our perception of faces, from a key contributor to the work. It should appeal to scientists as well as general readers."--Pawan Sinha, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"Alexander Todorov is one of the top researchers in the world on the social cognition of faces. In Face Value, he brings together a huge body of research on the subject, puts it into historical perspective, and tells many fascinating anecdotes."--Lisa DeBruine, University of Glasgow
"Honorable Mention for the 2018 PROSE Award in Psychology, Association of American Publishers"
"A mesmerising book."---Carol Midgley, The Times
"Hugely entertaining."---Kate Douglas, New Scientist
Face Value
raises a compelling and unresolved issue: First impressions are reasonably consistent, meaning that people largely agree on which faces they judge trustworthy or threatening or dominant. Yet these judgements may be far from accurate, leading to great social injustice in myriad daily interactions. . . . Todorov's book excels in explaining how he and other researchers have figured out many of the subtle cues that the mind uses in constructing [these impressions]."---Nicholas Wade, Wall Street Journal
"An impressive, well-written, and well-illustrated book. . . . Stimulating and enjoyable."---John Antonakis, Science
"First impressions and snap judgements are not trivial: they can overturn elections and make or break careers. Drawing on cognitive and computer science, this weighty, well-illustrated study by psychologist Alexander Todorov journeys under the skin to reveal how 'face-reading'--as in the old pseudoscience of physiognomy--has given way to a scientific understanding of perceptual bias vis- -vis the visage. Todorov unpeels the responses of newborns to 'faceness', the hunt for face-selective neurons, the chameleonic self-portraiture of artist Cindy Sherman and more."---Barbara Kiser, Nature
Face Value
sets out a persuasive and fascinating argument."---Oliver Moody, The Times
"Fascinating reading."---Diana Gitig, Ars Technica
"It's not the kind of book you'd expect to want to read more--just as in an adventure novel--but that's exactly what Face Value does: it gives you a lot of information in a way that always leaves you wanting for more. . . . A delightful book."---Mihai Andrei, ZME Science
"Compelling narrative voice and clear prose."---Hope Reese, Undark
"Since the early 2000s, Princeton University psychology professor Alexander Todorov has been studying . . . the first impression. In his new book, Face Value, Todorov pulls together all he's learned about first impressions. At first glance--and upon a careful reading--it makes for a fascinating and thorough examination of the subject."---Theodore Kinni, Strategy + Business
"Informative and entertaining. . . . Although it is aimed primarily at the general public I think that most psychologists will find this book to be an enjoyable and informative read, demonstrating not only the fascinating research emerging in the field of facial cognition but also providing a case study of how the scientific method can be applied to untangle the complex and subtle processes that make up the human mind."---James P. Schmidt, PsycCRITIQUES

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