Science proves that perhaps judging a book by its cover, particularly in terms of wealth, might make more sense than you think.
The phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is one of those lessons instilled in us from a young age. We’ve heard it countless times, emphasizing that a worn and rough cover might not accurately reflect the value within the pages. However, recent research challenges this notion. A study conducted by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that sometimes, judging a book by its cover might be more valid than we assume—particularly when it comes to an unexpected aspect: a person’s wealth.
The study was simple. Participants were shown 80 males and 80 females, of varying initiatives, photographed in black and white. None had tattoos, piercings or other defining physical characteristics. Of the photographed people, half were earning over $150,000 a year, and the other half was earning under $35,000.
The results were surprising. A staggering 68%, a clear majority, was able to identify the wealth of the photographed people correctly. What they couldn’t do, however, was justify their choices. Some would call it intuition, but intuition and science are two complicated concepts to marry, and so scientists decided to research further.
Turns out, when carrying out the very same exercise but zooming into specific facial features, individuals were still able to correctly guess a person’s wealth, albeit with less accuracy. The most notable features were the eyes and the mouth. Researchers also discovered that for participants to correctly guess, the photographed individuals had to be showcasing a neutral expression, as overly-happy faces skewed wealth perceptions. So, rich or not rich, we guess being happy is the solution to appear wealthier.