The human face is important for social communication and in attractiveness judgements. Previous studies indicate that several facial traits may be related to mental and physical health and there is some evidence that individuals are able to judge past health on the basis of facial appearance. The current study builds on this prior work, examining the relationship between static facial appearance and self-reported stress and health. Specifically, we examined (1) within and between individual stress (Study 1) by photographing the same participants at two times, once in a relatively stress free and once in a stressful time, and (2) between individual health (Studies 2A and 2B) by examining self-reported past number of colds as a measure of immune function. All studies demonstrated that individuals could judge the stress and physical health of others from static facial appearance alone at rates greater than chance. Such accuracy may reflect selection pressures to identify stress free and healthy social partners.
- social perception