Have you ever been afraid of or attracted to someone just because of the way the person looks? When you first meet someone, it is not unusual to react to his or her appearance. But these are first impressions, and most people assume that it takes time to find out what someone is really like. It is possible, however, that a person’s appearance reveals more than we realize. According to some people, a person’s face, head, and body can reveal a great deal about personality.
Since ancient times, people have practiced the art of physiognomy, or reading character from physical features. The ancient Greeks compared the human face to the faces of various animals and birds, such as the eagle and the horse. They believed people shared certain character traits with the animals they resembled. A person with an equine, or horse-like, face was thought to be loyal, brave, and stern. A person with an aquiline, or eagle-like, nose was believed to be bold and courageous, as well as arrogant and self-centered.
Physiognomists study such features as the shape of the head, the length and thickness of the neck, the color and thickness of the hair, and the shape of the mouse mouth, eyes, and chin. They believe that round-faced people are self-confident. Prominent cheekbones show strength of character, while a pointed nose reveals curiosity. Heavy, arched eyebrows belong to a decisive individual, while thin, arched eyebrows signal a restless and active personality. Almond-shaped eyes reveal an artistic nature. Round, soft eyes belong to dreamers. Down-turned lips reveal a proud character, while a long, pointed chin indicates someone who like to give orders.
A related – though not as ancient – art is phrenology. A couple of centuries ago, phrenologists started studying the bumps on the human head. They were able to identify 40 bumps of various shapes and sizes. They “read” these bumps to identify a person’s talents and character. For example a bump between the nose and forehead was said to be present in people who had natural elegance and a love of beauty. A bump behind the curve of the ear was the sign of a courageous and adventurous person.
Phrenologists were not so much interested in health as they were in character and personality. They believed, for example, that a bulge in the center of the forehead was typical of people who had a good memory and a desire for knowledge. A small bump at the top of the head indicated a person who had strong moral character, while a bump just below this one was sign of generosity and a kind, good nature. Phrenologists believed that a bump just above the tip of the eyebrow was found in people who loved order and discipline, and a rise at the very back of the head was evident in people who were very attached to their families.
Phrenology was developed in the early eighteenth century by Franz Joseph Gall, a doctor in Vienna. His interest began at school when he noticed that boys with prominent eyes seemed to have the best memories. This led him to believe that a connection existed between appearance and ability. Dr. Gall’s research interested many people, but he was ridiculed by other doctors. When he died in 1828, he was a poor and bitter man. After his death, however, phrenology achieved some popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century, and today there are still a few phrenologists even though there is no scientific evidence to support its practice.
Physiognomy (from the Greek φύσις physis meaning “nature” and gnomon meaning “judge” or “interpreter”) is a practice of assessing a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance—especially the face. The term can also refer to the general appearance of a person, object, or terrain without reference to its implied characteristics—as in the physiognomy of an individual plant (see plant life-form) or of a plant community (see vegetation).
Phrenology (from Ancient Greek φρήν (phrēn), meaning ‘mind’, and λόγος (logos), meaning ‘knowledge’) is a pseudoscience which involves the measurement of bumps on the skull to predict mental traits. It is based on the concept that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions or modules.