07/16/2012 06:49 pm ET Updated Sep 15, 2012

First Impressions: What's Inside Isn't All That Counts

When we think back to when we first saw Jennifer Aniston on Friends, many of us recall her amazing locks. With George Clooney, it's his bedroom eyes. When we picture Angelina Jolie, it's her signature smile.

Sure, these are celebs whose lives revolve around their looks, but for the rest of us in everyday life, it's worth noting that a first glance at a person's face often leaves a lasting impression. It's not only common sense -- our eyes settle on features that are directly in line with our gaze -- but science and culture that support this finding. Facial features are most often used to describe the people we meet; "she's blond and blue eyed," or "he's dark and bearded." Head shots are used not only for casting actors and on dating sites, but in line-ups to identify criminals and for security on credit cards. Facial features are more often remembered following initial interactions than people's bodies or even their personality traits

So what does someone's eyes, nose, smile, skin or hair typically tell us about them? As a psychologist who studies the role of beauty in contemporary culture, I've gathered some common conclusions people make from the features of our faces.

PHOTOS: What These Features Say About You

While there are no clear statistics available on how often first impressions turn out to be lasting ones, I would guess the number would actually be pretty high. Surely "it's what's inside that counts" and what matters most lies behind those eyes, that smile and all these facial features, but it's these very surface ones that often register first.


Vivian Diller, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in New York City. She serves as a media expert on various psychological topics and as a consultant to companies promoting health, beauty and cosmetic products. Her book, "Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change" (2010), edited by Michele Willens, is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances.

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