Prospective associations between boys' substance use and problem behavior histories and their facial trustworthiness in adulthood

Zoe M. Alley, David C.R. Kerr, John Paul Wilson, Nicholas O. Rule

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


People whose faces look untrustworthy tend to receive harsher social evaluations, including more severe criminal sentences. Yet little is known about how much facial trustworthiness reflects individuals' behavioral histories. We examined whether adolescent histories of delinquency and substance use predict strangers' perceptions of young men's facial trustworthiness. Methods: Boys (n = 206) recruited from schools with higher juvenile crime rates were assessed repeatedly from ages 10-24 years, including arrest records and self-reported delinquency and substance use. Coders blind to the study's purpose rated participants' facial trustworthiness from photographs taken at ages 14 and 24; parent-reported childhood family income and coder ratings of attractiveness and positive affect at age 24 were considered as controls. Results: Facial trustworthy ness at age 24 (but not age 14) negatively correlated with all measures of problem behavior. Yet, self-reported tobacco use occasions from ages 12-23 had the strongest association with facial trustworthiness at age 24, a relation that persisted when controlling for arrests and delinquency from ages 12-23, other substance use, family income, ratings of age-24 positive facial affect, attractiveness, and age-14 facial trustworthiness (=-.29, 95% CI [-.42,-.15], p < .001). Discussion: Although boys' early facial trustworthiness did not relate to their later problem behavior, men with histories of more delinquency and tobacco use appeared less facially trustworthy as adults. Appearance-related biases may have forensic and healthcare implications for young men. Additionally, prevention efforts could leverage information about the early impacts of tobacco use on appearance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-670
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Social and Clinical Psychology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019


  • Adolescence
  • Dorian gray effect
  • Face perception
  • Tobacco
  • Trustworthiness


Dive into the research topics of 'Prospective associations between boys' substance use and problem behavior histories and their facial trustworthiness in adulthood'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this