Theses and Dissertations

Threat Detection From phenotypic Facial Features

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Clinical and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

James R. Stefurak, Ph.D. & John F. Shelley-Tremblay, Ph.D


Previous research has demonstrated people's ability to accurately and quickly make snap judgments of trustworthiness from viewing individuals' faces (Todorov, Pakrashi, & Oosterhof, 2009; Willis & Todorov, 2006). The study of how human beings make meaningful predictions from phenotypic facial features about trustworthiness, among other traits, warrants additional scrutiny and investigation. Further, other research suggests the facial width to height ratio (fWHR) is a more specific indicator used by human beings to gauge, often accurately gauge, trustworthiness with some accuracy. As such, past research found participants rated people with larger fWHRs as less trustworthy and more aggressive (Carré & McCormick, 2008; Stirrat & Perrett, 2010). The present study had four major aims. The study's first aim was to extend the current literature to explore whether faces of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives (FBI) would have larger fWHRs than faces of Nobel Peace Prize or Order of Canada (NPP/OoC) recipients. The study's second aim was to replicate previous research exhibiting participants' ability to accurately discern less trustworthy individuals (i.e., the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives) from more trustworthy individuals (i.e., Nobel Peace Prize or Order of Canada recipients). The third aim of the study was to replicate fWHR viii findings to test the inverse relationship between fWHR and trustworthiness ratings. Finally, the fourth aim of the study entailed investigating whether participants endorsing psychopathic traits were more attracted to individuals who, arguably, have greater psychopathic traits (i.e., FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives). Results yielded mixed support for the above aims. The present study did not uncover a significant difference in fWHRs between the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives and Nobel Peace Prize or Order of Canada recipients. Additionally, results did not indicate an inverse relationship between fWHR and trustworthiness ratings. However, results supported participants’ ability to accurately and reliably discern the FBI's group from NPP/OoC recipients. Further, results revealed differences among psychopathy groups. Participants with the highest psychopathy scores endorsed significantly higher attractiveness and truthfulness ratings than participants with the lowest psychopathy scores, regardless of picture type.

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