When you type “glasses and intelligence” into Google, some research comes up (for instance, one of the first results for me was https://psychologynewsandreviews.com).
However, the information in that article is incredibly old – some of it 70 years old! But first, styles of glasses change greatly over the course of time, and second, cultural views of glasses change as well.
Luckily there was a relatively recent publication (from 2011) that examined the effect of eyeglasses on a few psychological processes.
One of the advantages of this publication is that it examined several different types of eyeglasses (not just glasses vs. no glasses). It is also a very tightly-controlled, well-done study.
Four separate experiments were conducted on the effect of eyeglasses on facial perception, recognition, and impressions.
Do different styles of glasses (or no glasses) affect which parts of the face an observer’s eyes are drawn to?
In other words – do glasses draw more attention to the eyes?
To test this, they used eye tracking devices to see where observers’ eyes are drawn.
Pictures of various people wearing full-rimmed, rimless, and no glasses were shown to observers.
Faces with full-rimmed glasses were rates as more distinctive than rimless or no glasses.
Full-rimmed glasses added more contrast to the eye region of a face, resulting in more attention being drawn to the eyes of the face than with no glasses.
Rimless glasses also resulted in more attention to the eyes.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
Full-framed eyeglasses draw attention to the eyes and make the wearer’s face more distinctive.
Rimless glasses draw some attention to the eyes (but are not as distinctive as full-framed eyeglasses).
STUDIES 2 & 3:
These experiments are complicated and you probably won’t bother writing out the procedures. But the conclusions they made were:
Glasses “become a part of the internal representation of the face” in a person’s memory.
In other words, if you wear glasses, they literally become a part of your face in people’s memories.
Even rimless glasses had this effect.
Do glasses affect observers’ evaluations of a person’s personality traits and attractiveness?
Pictures of randomized photos of people with full-rimmed glasses, rimless glasses, or no glasses were shown to participants.
Participants rated the photos on various personality traits.
Faces with glasses (both full-rimmed and rimless) were perceived as:
- More successful (than no glasses)
- More intelligent (than no glasses)
- More trustworthy (than no glasses)
Faces without glasses were perceived as:
- More attractive (than full-rimmed glasses)
Rimless glasses and no glasses were rated as equally attractive.
- More likeable (than full-rimmed glasses)
All three face types were equally rated on cooperativeness.
- Increase eye contrast
- Draw attention to the eyes
- Become a part of your face
- Increase perceived:
- Decrease perceived:
Attractiveness (EXCEPT for rimless glasses)
Likeability (EXCEPT for rimless glasses)
Does glasses type matter?
- Yes. Rimless glasses tend to be a “happy medium.”
On almost all measures, rimless glasses fell between full-rimmed and no glasses.
Some of the negative effects of glasses (decreased attractiveness and likeability) disappear with rimless glasses.
BUT rimless glasses are rated as less “distinctive.”
What effect are you going for?
|No Glasses||Rimless Glasses||Full-Framed Glasses|
|Attention to Eyes||Less||More||More|
- This is just one set of experiments from Europe. Mileage may vary elsewhere.
- This is 3 years old at this point.
- Obviously, the effect of glasses will highly depend on other factors (how attractive the person is apart from the glasses, facial expressions, clothing, demeanor, etc.). If you’re a mean, unlikable SOB, getting contact lenses isn’t going to help.
- Just like with all studies, USE COMMON SENSE. If you generally look better with glasses, don’t let this study convince you otherwise. It’s based on overall averages!
Leder, H., Forster, M., & Gerger, G. (2011). The glasses stereotype revisited: Effects of eyeglasses on perception, recognition, and impression of faces. Swiss Journal Of Psychology/Schweizerische Zeitschrift Für Psychologie/Revue Suisse De Psychologie, 70(4), 211-222.
Abstract here: https://www.researchgate.net