Does your face make people believe you are friendly or angry?Max pixel via Creative Commons

A person's face is often the first noticed feature and strangers often come to quick, snap judgements based on how a person looks. Scientists have now studied this phenomenon and explained the process by which people form opinions on character based just on the way a face looks.

According to researchers, an impression on personality is created after just a few hundred milliseconds of looking at a face. The study suggests that impressions are shaped not only by a face's specific features, but also by the onlooker's own beliefs about personality. Author Jonathan Freeman speaks about certain cues in a face that one would consider competent, for example and make for a friendly looking face were found to be physically similar for people who actually believe that competence and friendliness are qualities that normally occur together.

The author noted that such impressions are reliable, but also often highly inaccurate.

However, these same emotions are also have consequences, he says. Existing research, has in the past, found facial impressions to play a key role in a whole range of real-world situations stretching from political elections, to hiring decisions, criminal sentencing, and even dating.

For instance, a person with "babyish features" is often seen as agreeable and even harmless, but those with an "angry face" is thought of as dishonest and unfriendly, notes a report by HT.

The study involved 920 subjects who indicated to what extent they trusted their own decisions on how different traits in other people's personalities like how much they believed competence matched with friendliness. All the subjects were then each shown dozens of faces and asked to quickly judge on the qualities of competence and friendliness, this made it possible for the researchers to find out if the respondents thought weather or not the faces that are competent are also friendly.

Apart from the mentioned traits, the study included everything from agreeable and aggressive, to unhappy and weird, notes the report.

The result of the study showed that people who believed that a face seems competent also tend to be friendly have mental images of what a friendly face is. Competent and friendly seem to look physically resemble each other.

The study was first published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.