A look in time saves nine
IN November 2008, scientists at Kent University drew the face of Britain's most trustworthy man. They compiled the image after asking people to pick features indicative of honesty, which included a round face, small nose and no facial hair. Faces with a sharp jaw and eyes wide apart were deemed untrustworthy. Some eighteen centuries ago Saint Jerome spoke of something similar to it. He said that the face was the mind's mirror.
But we also know that looks can be deceptive, that they don't always reflect what goes on inside the mind. There are people who know how to pretend, and some of them are hard to catch even without disguise. The mirror often creates distortions. The impressions of mind are cleverly suppressed to camouglage the expressions of face.
A face is thus more than an appearance. It shows not just the likeness of a person, but also tells us what he is like. Yet, what the face shows depends on how we look at it. If we are looking for an appearance, it's just an identification sign, merely a signpost distinguishing one person from another.
It's also possible to read a face like a book. For example, a person with a developed backhead is more emotional than others and he is also more family and society oriented. The narrower the backhead means less of those features. The height of the crown indicates the idealism but more so the authority of the person. When the crown is low the person lacks in confidence to the degree that the crown is underdeveloped.
The readers can also read a person by his hair, forehead, eyes, eyebrows, nose, philtrum, mouth, chin, ears and cheeks. The scientists at Kent were trying to devise a way of effective reading that could reveal a person at a glance. For that purpose they collected those ubiquitous features, which contsruct the persona of trust, piecing together the jigsaw puzzle that a person wears on his face.
It means that the British are also as hard pressed as we to put together the profile of a reliable person. The way they are different from us is that they know what kind of a person they are looking for. When asked, people could readily deliver the features, which they believed should be indicative of what they wish to find. It must have come from their real life experiences. They must have seen an honest face in order to describe its features.
If asked, what kind of a description are we going to give? Do we know what shape and size of nose, ear or moustache formulate honesty? I have done an unscientific study myself with a sample size of ten. It would take pages to describe what they said in hesitation before they committed themselves to their answers. They could tell what honesty was, but didn't know how it looked.
40% of my sample said that they could rely on god-fearing people. 30% went for clean-shaved educated people, and 10% for an assortment of secular-minded, non-political, religious and educated folks. Another 20% said that honesty lived mostly amongst poor people, citing the example of Rupchan, the rickshaw puller who found two hundred and fifty thousand taka and virtuously returned the money to its owner.
A little experiment undertaken by WalletTest.com has thrown up the demographics of who is likely to return the money found. They dropped 100 wallets in front of hidden cameras and then observed what people did with those wallets. The results varied from face to face. 74% of total population returned the wallets, and twenty-six percent kept them. Then it varied by gender; 86% of the females and 61% of the males returned the wallets. Going by age, 56% of young people did it compared to 81% middle-aged and 88% aged people.
Not to say that the experiment is a surefire test of anything. But it's a rule of thumb, a position indicator that honesty doesn'thave fixed features. In fact, it fluctuates amongst people, depending on gender, age, race, and nationality. So, the face of Britain's most trustworthy man may not be what the French have in their minds. Likewise, the features of an Asian face of honesty could be totally different from those of one in Africa.
In 1849, William Thompson was arrested for being a "confidence man." He asked people if they had the confidence to lend him their watches, and then walked off with those watches. Thompson was captured after a victim recognised him on the street.
In a country where no trial is guaranteed, only hope is recognition. And recognise them in advance. Look before you lend, be it money, watch or confidence. A look in time saves nine.