For centuries, doctors believed that careful measurements of the skull could tell you about a person’s character and intelligence. This pseudoscience, called phrenology, often had its roots in scientific racism and was used by scientists in Nazi Germany to support their theories of a super-race of Aryan Übermenschen. However, researchers from the Czech Republic have recently shown that there truly is something in facial shapes which subconsciously tells the human brain how smart the mind behind that face is.
You really CAN tell how intelligent a man is just by looking at him, scientists say
In their research, published in the journal PLOS One, which the Public Library of Science produces, they showed test subjects static facial photographs of both men and women. The researchers then asked them to provide the perceived intelligence of the people in the photographs. They found that the test subjects were able to predict the intelligence, as measured by IQ or intelligence quotient, of the photographed men. However, they were unable to accurately tell the intelligence of women, perhaps because makeup commonly changes the perception of physical features, or because physical attraction and societal expectations clouded the test subjects’ judgement.
This research could have important implications for human evolutionary history. If human ancestors were able to tell how intelligent a man was just by looking at him, they could more easily select an intelligent mate. Further research is needed, of course, to determine whether this trick works across racial boundaries, or if there is any way to determine the intelligence of women via visual cues. For instance, could sexuality have anything to do with this ability? Would gay men be better able to see a woman’s features without attraction getting in the way? It would also be interesting to see whether further studies support this theory of visual intelligence markers, or whether it will turn out that this study, as the age-old phrenology, must be consigned to the dustbin of history.