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Personology, is a recent "New Age" variant of the ancient pseudoscience of physiognomy, which is closely related to the disproved study of phrenology. It is a system of face reading that purports to show a correlation between a person's physical features and appearance, and the person's behavior, personality and character. Mainstream science considers personology to be a wholly false pseudoscience.
History[edit | edit source]
According to "A Dictionary of Psychology" by Andrew M. Colman (second edition: Oxford University Press, 2006) "personology" is a psychoanalytic term "...introduced by the US psychologist Henry Alexander Murray (1893-1988) to denote a theory of personality and social behaviour in which a person's needs and personality are considered as an integrated whole." Personology is said by Naomi Tickle, the founder of the International Centre for Personology, to have been developed in the 1930s by Edward Vincent Jones, a Los Angeles Circuit Court judge. Jones noted the behavioral patterns of those who appeared in his court, began taking notes and eventually proved that he could predict people's behavior from observing their facial features and other physical structures. Fascinated by his discovery, Jones dropped his judicial work and began "researching" the field using earlier literature published about the subject by notable authors such as Johann Kaspar Lavater. Jones is said to have compiled a list of 200 different facial features, which he later narrowed down to 68. Althoughit is thought that Robert L. Whiteside and others narrowed the number to 68, not Jones.
After seeing Jones perform a cold reading on his wife, Robert L. Whiteside, a newspaper editor, became an ardent supporter of personology and is said by Tickle to have 'done the science' proving the validity of personology in an experiment that "used 1,068 subjects and found the accuracy to be better than 90%". Whiteside's alleged study appears nowhere in any of the scientific literature.
Robert L. Whiteside and others associated with the development and refinement of personology used scientific methods to validate the traits three different times over the course of 20 years in the latter part of the 20th Century. Much of the proprietary work is available through the Personology Institute.
Examples of supposed personology correlations[edit | edit source]
- Coarse hair: less sensitive
- Fine hair: extremely sensitive
- Wide jaw: authoritative in speech and action
- Square chin: can be combative
- Wide-flared nose: relies automatically on self
- Wide ears: likes to listen
- Full lips: talkative
- Big nose: likes to present large contributions and rejects small ones
- Round face: a friendly person
There is nothing known to psychological or medical science, or any of its subdivisions such as neuroscience, which support any of the claims of personology or its supposed explanations.
Personology as a Pseudoscience[edit | edit source]
According to The Skeptics Dictionary, a collaboration of literature that attempts to demystify claims of the supernatural, paranormal and pseudoscientific, Judge Jones did not initiate any controlled experiments that might possibly disprove his claim. In reference to Stephen Carey's "A Beginner's Guide to Scientific Method," Judge Jones did not accurately follow the scientific method and therefore has contributed to the fact that personololgy could be considered a pseudoscience. Judge Jones completed step one of the scientific method by observing a correlation between facial features and personality, however he did not accurately complete steps two and three. He made no scientific-based attempt to explain why this correlation might have resulted, nor proceeded with unbiased scientific testing. Robert Whitehead obviously became aware of the holes present in Jones' theory and continued on to attempt to scientifically prove that personology is not a pseudoscience. He reportedly conducted his own study which he claims had a 90% accuracy rate, however, as noted previously, the study findings are not published in any scientific journals. This accuracy rate was determined by surveying the study participants and asking three questions: was the description of their personality accurate; were the vocational recommendations useful when followed; and did they receive benefits from the analysis. These questions are highly subjective and could be intrepreted differently by those taking the survey. Together, Jones and Whitehead have both created two instances of what Carey calls "tell-tale signs of a pseudoscience." The first fallacy commited is that of a false anomaly, which involves distorting or omitting facts to enhance the scientific findings. Jones' study only involved his personal accounts in the courthouse of the correlation between facial features and personality. This is not a scientific way of recording data and information could have easily been deleted or reshaped to concur with the desired results. Whitehead attempted to correct this discrepancy by actually performing a legitimate scientific study with a substantial amount of participants. However, because no information can be found regarding this experiment, this also leads to the possibility of falsified information. Another of Carey's fallacies that can be linked to personology is illicit causal inferences. This "tell-tale sign" is when a causal link is established merely on the basis of correlation or concomitant variation. Neither Jones nor Whitehead were able to scientifically prove their causal link beyond a reasonable doubt. It is very possible that the link is purely coincidental and the lack of scientific data only encourages such a plausibility.
Further reading[edit | edit source]
- Stephen Carey (2004), "A Beginner's Guide to Scientific Method," Wadsworth, ISBN 0-534-58450-0.
- Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, W H Freeman & Co., ISBN 0-7167-3387-0
- Naomi Tickle (2003), You Can Read a Face Like a Book: How Reading Faces Helps You Succeed in Business and Relationships, Daniels Publishing, ISBN 0-9646398-2-3.
- Bill Whiteside (2000), Nature's Message: How We Look, How We Act - Proof our physical appearance indicates potential behavior, Self Published, ISBN 0-9703907-0-X.