There are many different indicators of psychopathology, but a recent study found a new link that might surprise you. Did you know that a person’s personality and levels of psychopathology may be associated with how strongly they focus on the faces of others?
From the time of birth, as humans, we are geared to look at people’s faces, even when watching movies or looking at images in the newspaper. In their study, the researchers looked into how our psychological traits play a role in just how much focus we have on the faces of others.
For the study, the researchers had 120 participants look at 20 photographs that showed people in different environments while they assessed their attention using a cursor based tool. Basically, they would blur the image, and it would only become clear around a 20-pixel radius of the cursor, which the participants could move around the screen.
Then, the participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that assessed the big five personality traits: extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Additionally, the questionnaire asked them questions to understand the different facets of psychopathology, including social anxiety, depression, empathy, and alexithymia (the inability to describe one’s emotions.). They were also asked about their values.
They found that those who focused more on the faces were more open, agreeable, extroverted, and had higher levels of empathy. On the other hand, those who were less likely to focus on the faces had higher traits of social anxiety, depression, and alexithymia.
In conclusion, the researchers believe that people who pay more attention to the faces of others are more prone to being empathetic and less prone to psychopathology.