You’re Extroverted, It’s Written All Over Your Face
Christopher Philip

Research led by Peter Borkenau Martin-Luther University found that those with an extraverted personality are readily discerned from others with just brief glimpses of their face.

In the research, participants were shown images from targets who were photographed in a manner that suited them. That is, no special instructions were provided when the images were taken. The targets were then asked to fill out a questionnaire aimed at assessing their personality.

The images were then shown to unacquainted persons for either 150 ms, 100 ms or 50 ms. The participants were asked to make assessments of the face they had just seen based on their perceived personality.

Results showed that participants matched the self-reported assessments of the targets. Specifically, the targets and the participants matched on excitement seeking and positive emotions.

The researchers attribute this to cheerfulness of facial expressions. That is, the participants were picking up on cues of extraversion from the cues given off by the participants showing their overall emotional affect.

Importantly, the research shows that exposure to stranger’s faces for as little as 50 ms is enough for other’s to infer their level of extraversion. In other words, people assess personality very quickly and very accurately.

“Many people attempt to express positive emotions by smiling, particularly when being photographed, but introverts seem to do so less frequently, less skillfully, and in more reserved ways than extraverts,” say the researchers.

The researchers qualify the findings by saying that cheerful facial expressions result not only in high extraversion, but also infer favourable personality traits including high agreeableness and low neuroticism.

Overall, the research implies, as has many others, that people can be exposed to very brief exposures to faces and infer many qualities and do so accurately. Additionally, these qualities are inferred from generally immutable qualities and morphological traits, although this specific study did not address this issue in particular. Rather, the authors explain the findings in terms of the ability of introverts and extroverts to control their faces in such ways as to create desired impressions in others.

While no specific instructions were given to the targets as they posed for their photograph, the extroverts were more skilled at demonstrating their more outgoing and generally more socially favourable personality traits they hold. In other words, as most people are encouraged to smile big during a photograph, the introverts may struggle in this regard while the extrovert excels.


Borkenau, Peter; Steffi Brecke; Christine Möttig and Marko Paelecke. Extraversion is Accurately Perceived After a 50-ms Exposure to a Face. Journal of Research in Personality. 2009. 43: 703-706.