(from the Gk. “physis” meaning ‘nature’ and “gnomon” meaning ‘judge’ or ‘interpreter’) is the assessment of a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance, especially the face. The term physiognomy can also refer to the general appearance of a person, object or terrain, without reference to its implied characteristics.

The credence of such study has varied from time to time. The practice was well-accepted by the ancient Greek philosophers but fell into disrepute in the Middle Ages when practiced by vagabonds and mountebanks. It was then revived and popularized by Johann Kaspar Lavater before falling from favour again in the 20th century.

It is now being revived again as some new research indicates that people’s faces can indicate such traits as trustworthiness, social dominance and aggression. The latter trait seems to be determined by the level of the hormone testosterone during puberty, which affects the ratio between the height and width of the face – aggressive individuals are found to have wider faces.

Originally practiced by Aristotle, and embraced in 1930’s by Judge Edward Jones in Chicago, where he predicted the innocence or guilt of those appearing in his court with a 90% accuracy ratio.

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