Perception and Judgment Lab

Past and present research

Most of our work has been on characterizing the perceptual, cognitive, and neural basis of judgments from facial appearance. For a recent review of some of this work, see Todorov & Oh (2021). One of the important contributions of the lab was to introduce data-driven computational methods for visualizing the perceptual basis of social judgments from faces. See demonstrations for some of the resulting models of judgments. Recently, using generative adversarial networks we have built models capable of generating and manipulating the appearance of hyper-realistic faces. You can sign here to follow the development of the methods.

Present and future research I

Much of our prior work has been on the consequences of social judgments from faces. We are currently studying how these judgments can lead to systematic discrimination of people who do not look the part or belong to social groups that the perceiver happened not to prefer. When we think of bias and discrimination, we often think of direct discrimination, but much of discrimination is indirect. By choosing to interact with a “trustworthy-looking” person in a mutually beneficial interaction, I give them the opportunity to confirm my prior biases. At the same time, this choice precludes the opportunity to learn about the behavior of non-preferred partners and systematically excludes them from mutually beneficial interactions.

Present and future research II

Although we have identified the common perceptual roots of many social judgments, our judgments are heavily influenced by our idiosyncratic taste. In the case of the only “pure” appearance judgment — attractiveness — about 50% of our preferences are shaped by this idiosyncratic taste. For any other complex social judgment such as “trustworthiness,” more than 50% is explained by idiosyncratic taste. For a statistical model of estimating these contributions, see Martinez, Funk, & Todorov (2020). This phenomenon extends to all of our preferences. As a result, we overestimate our agreement with others and often what appears as “noise” in judgments is stable idiosyncratic variance. We are working on characterizing the reliability and the sources of our preferences.
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