A team of plastic surgeons from Georgetown University Medical Center found that when a man opted to undergo facial plastic surgery, he was generally perceived as more attractive, trustworthy, and likable by others post-procedure.
“The tendency to judge facial appearance is likely rooted in evolution, as studies suggest evaluating a person based on appearance is linked to survival — our animal instinct tells us to avoid those who are ill-willed and we know from previous research that personality traits are drawn from an individual’s neutral expressions,” said senior investigator and board certified Facial Plastic & Reconstructive surgeon, Michael J. Reilly, MD, an associate professor of otolaryngology at Georgetown’s School of Medicine.
This study, published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, did not focus solely on perceptions of gender — a man being perceived as more masculine, say — as a similar 2015 study on facial plastic surgery effects on women did.
“Taken together, our findings suggest that both men and women undergoing facial cosmetic surgery can experience not only improved perception of attractiveness, but other positive changes in society’s perception of their persona,” Reilly said.
Reilly and his colleagues set out to determine if society really does prefer men with square jaws, chiseled cheekbones, and more prominent chins. To do so, they used before-and-after pictures from facial plastic surgery procedures done on 24 men who had one or more of the following surgeries: upper eyelid lift (upper blepharoplasty), reduction of lower eyelids (lower blepharoplasty), face-lift, brow-lift, neck-lift, nose reshaping (rhinoplasty), and/or a chin implant.
The team designed six surveys, and each included eight photographs — four photos of a patient before surgery, and four after. No survey contained both photos of a single patient.
More than 150 participants (mostly between the ages of 25-34, white, and with a college degree) took the surveys without any knowledge of the study’s intent. Via the surveys, they were asked to rate their perception of each patient’s aggressiveness, extroversion, likeability, risk-seeking, sociability, trustworthiness, as well as attractiveness and masculinity.
The researchers then built a model to assess the participants’ perceptions of men who had undergone specific plastic surgery procedures. They found that specific personality and appearance perceptions were linked to specific facial procedures with chin augmentation being the only procedure that did not have an effect on perceived personality traits or attractiveness.
Upper eyelid augmentation increased a man’s likeability and trustworthiness. Lower eyelid augmentation decreased perceived risk-taking. A brow lift improved perception of extroversion and risk-taking. A face-life increased one’s likability and trustworthiness. A neck-lift increased perceived extroversion and masculinity. And a nose job improved attractiveness.
“It is really interesting that different anatomic areas of the face have varying degrees of contribution to overall personality perception,” Reilly said. “And it is also noteworthy that the study did not find a significant change in masculinity. Just one procedure, a neck-lift, was found to enhance that trait.”
Reilly said that these findings suggest that the current “menu of cosmetic procedures for men” are not as gender-enhancing as they may be for women. In a similar study conducted on 30 female patients, increased femininity was significant post-procedure.
“Cicero described the face as the ‘mirror of the soul,’ meaning that a person’s physical appearance is the personal characteristic most obvious and accessible to others in social interaction — so it’s not surprising that subtle changes in neutral facial appearances are powerful enough to alter judgments of personality,” Reilly said.
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