Building better faces for use in psychology research

May 29, 2019

Professor of Psychology Alexander Todorov studies the irresistible but faulty first impressions people form when they see a face for the first time. His research shows that it takes only a fraction of a second for these snap judgments to take shape in the brain, but their influence has a major impact on how we view those around us.

Todorov has been selected to receive Princeton funding through the Dean for Research Innovation Funds. The winning proposals were selected based on their quality, originality and potential for impact through anonymous review by Princeton peers knowledgeable in the discipline being explored.

Todorov and his team will apply big data and artificial intelligence to boost the realistic quality of computer-generated human faces for studies of how we perceive factors such as trustworthiness and competence as well as emotions such as anger and sadness. Insights into how we form social impressions from faces could help reduce appearance-based discrimination and tackle issues of fairness in society.

The research team, which includes Stefan Uddenberg, postdoctoral research fellow in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute; Joshua Peterson, postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Computer Science; and Jordan Suchow, assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, hopes ultimately to develop an online application so that researchers can tune specific qualities to create highly realistic and diverse faces that can be used widely in psychology research.

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