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Published September 21, 2012 | Published
Journal Article Open

Perspective Distortion from Interpersonal Distance Is an Implicit Visual Cue for Social Judgments of Faces


The basis on which people make social judgments from the image of a face remains an important open problem in fields ranging from psychology to neuroscience and economics. Multiple cues from facial appearance influence the judgments that viewers make. Here we investigate the contribution of a novel cue: the change in appearance due to the perspective distortion that results from viewing distance. We found that photographs of faces taken from within personal space elicit lower investments in an economic trust game, and lower ratings of social traits (such as trustworthiness, competence, and attractiveness), compared to photographs taken from a greater distance. The effect was replicated across multiple studies that controlled for facial image size, facial expression and lighting, and was not explained by face width-to-height ratio, explicit knowledge of the camera distance, or whether the faces are perceived as typical. These results demonstrate a novel facial cue influencing a range of social judgments as a function of interpersonal distance, an effect that may be processed implicitly.

Additional Information

© 2012 Bryan et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Received April 27, 2012; Accepted August 20, 2012; Published September 21, 2012. Editor: Tiziana Zalla, Ecole Normale Supérieure, France. Funding: Funded by grants from National Institutes of Health and the Moore Foundation (R.A.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. We thank Kathy Lawrence and Pranay Kothari for help with data collection. Author Contributions: Conceived and designed the experiments: RB PP RA. Performed the experiments: RB. Analyzed the data: RB. Contributed reagents/materials/ analysis tools: RB RA PP. Wrote the paper: RB PP RA.

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