physiognomy is a discredited practice that feels intuitively right. (physiognomy is the "science" of accurately judging character based on outward appearance, esp. face.)
ever judge a person's curiosity and intelligence by the brightness of their eyes? trust someone because they have an open face? assume a tall and attractive person is confident? on some level these intuitions shape my perception of others. especially strangers and people i don't know well.
like this guy.
this, of course, is the devout muslim who intended to detonate a car bomb within a crowd for the glory of allah. i saw this picture and immediately hated him.
but even if this picture accompanied a positive headline - maybe, "Youngest Nobel Recipient Ever, Cures Cancer, AIDS" - i would still judge him negatively.
physiognomically speaking, here's why:
eyes - shallow, almost painted on his face. no emotional or intellectual depth.
eyebrows - tilted, travel away from his eyes into his forehead. reminiscent of Flash Gordon's nemesis, Ming the Merciless.
lips - a mix of petulance and condescension. make him appear permanently scornful.
skull - vast forehead collapsing to a narrow chin. meet upside-down-triangle-head man. like the eyebrows, almost a caricature.
if i passed this face on the street i'd want to punch it.
not an impulsion i'd act on, but he would certainly face obstacles to earning my trust.
while mostly out of favor, physiognomy is making a partial comeback. we might not be particularly skilled at telling if someone is honest, but apparently we can accurately judge if that person is a good candidate for flight school.
regardless of whether physiognomy is ultimately validated or dismissed by science, we should try to be aware of its affect on our judgement. listen to your intuition while remaining open to additional information. not everyone who looks like Ming the Merciless is Ming the Merciless.