How's your gaydar? Is your face your fate? What can you tell about someone just by looking at them? These are just some of the questions that Prof. Rule attempts to answer.
Nicholas Rule is Assistant Professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair in Social Perception and Cognition. Broadly speaking, his work examines questions regarding person perception, focusing largely on information about individuals that can be accurately extracted from their faces. To date, his research has consisted of two key themes:
1. Predicting outcomes from nonverbal and facial cues-
In a series of studies, Prof. Rule has found that individuals’ life outcomes can in some cases be predicted from cues in their faces. For example, judgments of personality traits and leadership ability from the faces of CEOs significantly correlate with their success in leading their companies. Prof. Rule has studied this both at macro-levels, such as differences across cultures, and micro-levels, such as the brain basis for these judgments and perceptions.
2. The study of perceptually ambiguous groups-
Most of what is currently known about group processes in social psychology has focused on groups with perceptually obvious markers. Yet there are a great many groups for whom the distinctions are not obvious, but ambiguous. One example is sexual orientation: Although people can tell better than chance guessing who is gay and straight, there is a lot of error in these judgments that provides opportunities for understanding how the mind engages in social categorization, more generally. Thus, Prof. Rule has studied many questions surrounding the phenomenon of detecting whether people belong to various perceptually ambiguous groups (e.g., gay/lesbian and straight; Mormon and non-Mormon) based on minimal cues.
For more information and representative publications, please see Prof. Rule’s website.