The effects of facial plastic surgery on perceived youthfulness and attractiveness have already been demonstrated by several studies, which typically included ordinary observers who were asked to rate before-and-after photos. However, youth and beauty are not the only defining elements of the face; assertiveness, agreeableness, trustworthiness, and femininity/masculinity also play a role.
A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Georgetown University has shed light on the issue of perceived personality traits and how these could be altered by facial plastic surgeries such as face lift, brow lift, neck lift and eyelid lift. Rhinoplasty, or nose job in layman’s term, was not included because it has no or very little effect on a person’s neutral expression, they suggested.
To eliminate confounding variables like ethnicity and gender, the researchers presented before-and-after photos of 30 white female patients who have had some type of facial plastic surgery. About 170 respondents answered the survey posted online.
The pre- and post-operative photos of the same patient were not presented in a photographic set to prevent recall bias or direct comparison, the researchers noted in the study.
Patients who have had facelift and lower eyelid surgery scored the highest in the personality trait assessments that included perceived attractiveness, social skills, femininity, and likability.
Interestingly, a separate study has suggested that people with high eyebrows and prominent cheekbones were perceived to be more honest even though there was no evidence that facial features were linked to personality traits.
Individuals with flat or sunken cheeks and furrowed brows, on the other hand, were perceived to be less trustworthy.
Meanwhile, a team of psychologists at the New York University has suggested that it takes 33 milliseconds, or a fraction of a time it takes to blink, for the brain to decide a person’s trustworthiness based on his/her face.
Leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley, who was not part of the study, says the findings did not surprise him, as increasing the oblique frame—the distance between the brow and upper lid crease—during brow lift surgery not just leads to a more youthful countenance, but also results in improved trustworthiness and femininity.
Dr. Smiley says that a sagging brow may lead to a perennially angry or sad appearance, depending on the degree or angle of droop, and so a conservative elevation during brow lift can improve a person’s neutral expression—or even her non-physical personality attributes.
Facelift can also improve the perceived likability and trustworthiness by correcting the sunken cheeks, which is done by elevating the drooping cheek fat pad into the deeper tissue.
However, Dr. Smiley warns that the success of facial surgery relies largely on the surgeon’s qualifications and experience, adding that pulling the skin more than a few millimeters than intended, or using incorrect vector of pull, can lead to unnatural results or “weird expression.”
“Prudent patients should ensure that their plastic surgeons are board certified and have been performing the sought procedure on a regular basis,” he says.