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Face Value

The Irresistible Influence of First Impressions

“A mesmerising book.” — Carol Midgley, The Times

“Hugely entertaining.” — Kate Douglas, New Scientist

“An impressive, well-written, and well-illustrated book. … Stimulating and enjoyable.” — John Antonakis, Science

“First impressions and snap judgements are not trivial: they can overturn elections and make or break careers. Drawing on cognitive and computer science, this weighty, well-illustrated study by psychologist Alexander Todorov journeys under the skin to reveal how ‘face-reading’ — as in the old pseudoscience of physiognomy — has given way to a scientific understanding of perceptual bias vis-à-vis the visage. Todorov unpeels the responses of newborns to “faceness”, the hunt for face-selective neurons, the chameleonic self-portraiture of artist Cindy Sherman and more.”— Barbara Kiser, Nature

“Compelling narrative voice and clear prose.” — Hope Reese, Undark

Face Value is an excellent book, with many surprising insights and many compelling illustrations that offer a complex aesthetic experience.” — Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and author of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Face Value sets out a persuasive and fascinating argument.” — Oliver Moody, The Times

Face Value raises a compelling and unresolved issue: First impressions are reasonably consistent, meaning that people largely agree on which faces they judge trustworthy or threatening or dominant. Yet these judgments may be far from accurate, leading to great social injustice in myriad daily interactions. … Todorov’s book excels in explaining how he and other researchers have figured out many of the subtle cues that the mind uses in constructing them.” — Nicholas Wade, Wall Street Journal

“Fascinating reading.” — Diana Gitig, Ars Technica

“Todorov’s work is fun and somewhat shocking on the surface, but the deeper implication—that much of our decision-making and behavior is unconscious and unknown to us—goes well beyond his findings about the biases we bring to evaluating the faces of other people. Face Value shows that as much as we think of ourselves as rational creatures in control of what we do we are just as often influenced by eyebrows and chins. Terrifying and enjoyable.” — David Byrne, founder of Talking Heads and author of How Music Works

“A fascinating and thorough examination.” — Theodore Kinni, Strategy+Business

“From one of the world’s great experts on the human face, this is a book that illuminates the eternal belief that the face holds the secrets to a person’s character. Todorov is a brilliant teacher of the history of this great myth, as he patiently unveils for us the rich and fascinating science of the psychology of face perception. I am humbler for having read this book, with a truer understanding of the mind of my species.” — Mahzarin R. Banaji, coauthor of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People

“It’s not the kind of book you’d expect to want to read more — just as in an adventure novel — but that’s exactly what Face Value does: it gives you a lot of information in a way that always leaves you wanting for more. … A delightful book.” — Mihai Andrei, ZME Science

“Faces are what newborns naturally seek. They are the objects of our love, trust, fear, longing, and memory. They inspire poetry and the visual arts. We rely on faces to reveal mood and character, allowing them to influence hiring decisions, criminal convictions, and elections. In this magisterial work, Todorov takes us on a tour of the face, its role in human affairs, and its power to influence and mislead. You’ll always look at faces, but never the same way again.” — Eldar Shafir, coauthor of Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives