Healthy, Recognizably Mormon Faces

Five years ago, Ryan Bell wrote a post at Millennial Star considering which public figures look like Mormons, particularly Chief Justice John Roberts (“Mormon Face”). Now, researchers the University of Toronto and Tufts University have tackled the question “Can people pick out Mormons by looking at their faces?” (Thanks to Marginal Revolution for pointing out the article.)

“On the Perception of Religious Group Membership from Faces”

From the abstract:

Although religious group membership is thought to be perceptually ambiguous, folk beliefs suggest that Mormons and non-Mormons can be categorized from their appearance. We tested whether Mormons could be distinguished from non-Mormons and investigated the basis for this effect to gain insight to how subtle perceptual cues can support complex social categorizations.

The final paragraph:

In conclusion, Mormons and non-Mormons subtly differ in their facial appearance and perceivers are able to perceive these differences in a way that allows for accurate categorization. The two groups are distinguished by differences in apparent health, which appears to be expressed in facial cues signaling skin quality. These data verify a longstanding folk belief among a highly cohesive minority religious group and provide insights to the incorporation of subtle perceptual cues to support higher-level social cognitions.

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

7 thoughts on “Healthy, Recognizably Mormon Faces

  1. Mo-dar indeed. True story: our stake in Miami used to participate in the Miami Book Fair. We gave out hundreds of Books of Mormon every November. Crowds of people would pass by. It was actually pretty easy to tell who the Mormons were as they came by our booth. It had nothing to do with race or color (in Miami, Mormons come in all varieties), it was that they had a certain look to them. Part of it admittedly was the relatively neat and/or modest way they dressed. But it was also a certain look. I don’t know how to describe it, but this post and study rings true for me.

  2. I have a friend that lived much of his life in Utah. He was not a Mormon. (He was a Muslim.) He was with a Mormon friend visiting a University in California. I can’t remember which one.

    Suddenly some guy pointed at him and his Mormon friend and shouted: “Those guys are Mormons!”

    I should probably note here that I would have thought the Muslim guy was Mormon too. He looked Mormon. Perhaps from spending too much time around us? I’m not sure.

  3. When I lived in Utah or visited anywhere out West, I thought I could tell the difference between Mormons and others. I once believed there was a certain unique look to Mormons. However, since moving to the “belt buckle of the Bible Belt” nineteen years ago, most everyone here has the same “mormon” look.

    I have this theory that many Saints came to the West over the last 150 years or so, and over the course of time not all stayed active. It has been observed that when someone leaves the church they usually do not join another church, but instead become “unchurched” so to speak. The unchurched mormons joined the frontier-types and the end result is a legacy of “no religion” is what I see with the non-mormon population in the West. I do not think it is so much a Mormon-look, as it is clean living follower of Christ countenance that gives one the ” mormon look”.

  4. funny thing……..I’ve been a convert for the last ten years,having married into a “mormon” family, but sadly I didn’t join the church untill after my divorce,five years later……my son served a mission and one can really tell that he “looks” as if he is mormon…..me I’am kind of a
    mystery…having a good faith in the church,I still have long hair and a little hair on the face…but when I tell my friends that I am mormon most would say that they could tell by the way I looked,I just figured it was becausem I don’t smoke and/or do drugs and keep myself seperate from “the norm” of activity of most non-mormons. What I’am trying to say is most mormons do show who they are not only by their standards but by the way they look………….amazing!

  5. This makes sense to me to the degree that one’s body in some sense contains a record of everything that it has done or that has been done to it. Thus I would not be surprised to learn that at least one chapter of the Book of Life is the body itself.

  6. Honestly believing that our body is the record of all our actions, thoughts, feelings, words, deeds, etc. I believe it is the book by which we shall be judged.

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