It’s True, People Associate Body Shapes With Personality Traits

By on November 9, 2018
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They say the first impression is the best impression. While impressions are typically formed based on your overall personality and on what you say, the shape of your body has an important say in the perception you build for others as well, states the most recent study on the matter.

For instance, people perceived classically feminine (pear-shaped) and classically masculine (broad-shouldered) bodies as being associated with “active” traits, such as being quarrelsome, extroverted, and irritable.

Stereotypes based on body shape can contribute to how we judge and interact with new acquaintances and strangers, thanks to this study published in the journal Psychological Science.
Male and female bodies that were more rectangular, were associated with passive traits, such as being trustworthy, shy, dependable, and warm.

Generally, the participants judged heavier bodies as being associated with more negative traits, such as being lazy and careless; they judged lighter bodies as having more positive traits, such as being self-confident and enthusiastic.

The researchers assessed whether participants consistently associated specific traits with certain body types.

“Our research shows that people infer a wide range of personality traits just by looking at the physical features of a particular body. Understanding these biases is important for considering how we form first impressions,” said lead researcher Ying Hu from the University of Texas.

“We wanted to know whether we could link personality descriptor words to body shape in predictable ways,” Hu added.

The researchers found that they could reliably predict that they were able to predict personality trait judgments from specific combinations of different body shape features.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to consider the role of more nuanced aspects of body shape—beyond height and weight—in personality judgments about people,” says Alice O’Toole, coauthor and professor of the University of Texas at Dallas.

The tendency to infer personality traits from body shape is likely universal, the authors argue, but they note that the exact inferences people make will vary according to their culture, ethnicity, and even age. And it remains to be seen how other characteristics, such as attractiveness or gender, interact with body shape to influence the inferences that people make.

These findings add a new layer to the science behind first impressions, revealing “the complicated and value-based judgments that people make about strangers based only on their bodies,” Hu concludes.

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