Name Instructor Class 17 November 2011 Personality: A Product of Physical Appearance or Not? Can people “read” someone's personality through their faces alone? This essay explores the answer to this question, as it connects the themes of personality and physical appearance in two articles, “The Naked Face” and “The Story of My Body.” “The Naked Face” provides evidence that personality and physical appearance, particularly facial expressions, affect each other…
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“The Naked Face” demonstrates that personality and physical appearance directly influence each other through their two-way feedback system. Paul Ekman, a psychologist from San Francisco, studied human facial expressions with Wallace Friesen. They contacted Silvan Tomkins, another professor of Psychology at Princeton and Rutger. Ekman showed Tomkins close-up pictures of two tribes, the peace-loving South Fore and the hostile and homosexuality-practicing Kukukuku (Gladwell 3). Tomkins correctly interpreted the personalities of these two tribes, when he said that the South Fore were “a sweet, gentle people, very indulgent, very peaceful," while the Kukukuku were “violent, and there is lots of evidence to suggest homosexuality” (Gladwell 3). ...
These researchers also studied medical textbooks that identified facial muscles, and they determined the specific muscular movements that the face can produce. They recognized forty-three movements and labeled them as “action units or A.U.” (Gladwell 3). After that, they wrote the Facial Action Coding System, or FACS, which included all A.U. and the rules for “reading” them. Their study emphasizes that it is possible to know who people are from their faces only. Their research reveals another perplexing finding: people's expressions also affect their body. When people consciously project happiness, their bodies also show signs of happiness: “In the facial-feedback system, an expression you do not even know that you have can create an emotion you did not choose to feel” (Gladwell 5). Friesen and Ekman implicate that appearance can also influence people's emotions, and perhaps their personalities too. “The Story of My Body” disagrees with “The Naked Face,” because it believes that physical appearance can impact personality, only when people allow it to. Cofer says that as a child, she was quite bony and small compared to American or white counterparts. As a result, her peers called her “Skinny Bones” and “The Shrimp.” Even when people taunted her, however, she remained emotionally strong, because she focused on her academic skills instead. She decided to be a “brain” and not an athlete. Still, how people saw her also shaped her personality. For instance, when Cofer had chicken pox, she scratched them and had permanent scars all over her face. A nurse told her that her scars would “always” seem to other people that “a mad cat had plunged its claws deep into [her] skin.” This remark made her feel inferior and she
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