Plastic surgeons have the opportunity to see a lot of patients with a variety of facial disfigurements. Ranging from traumatic injuries to birth defects to defects caused by a variety of neoplastic pathologies, people so afflicted are understandably concerned about their appearance and want to be as whole as possible. They feel, justified or not, that these facial differences have a negative impact on many different types of social interactions.
New psychological research has now shown that such facial deformities can also result in being rated lower in job interviews compared to those with unaffected faces. A report published on the online Journal of Applied Psychology from two Texas universities looked at how people with facial disfigurements were viewed in job interviews. The research looked at two studies, one using eye-tracking technology that looked at the interviewer’s focus and the other having interviewers evaluate the applicant’s based on face-to-face interviews.
In the first study, nearly 200 participants viewed a computer-mediated interview of applicants who did or did not have facial disfigurements. Using eye-tracking techniques, the amount of time they spent looking at the facial deformity and how they recalled and rated the applicant. Results show that the more time participants spent looking at the facial disfigurement, the less they could recall about the actual details of the applicants interview. This led directly to lower rating for the applicant.
In the second study, nearly 40 managers enrolled in post-graduate business courses interviewed applicants who either did or did not have a facial deformity. Their impression and ratings of the applicants showed that those with facial deformities were less well remembered and received lower ratings as suitable hires.
These studies confirm what many patients with facial deformities feel…that they are viewed as less worthy than if they did not have the facial problem. A more normal face or unaltered face is felt to have a better chance of success in life both socially and vocationally. While this is no surprise and has been shown by many studies before, the current report shows why it happens. The facial deformity directs one’s memory away from the actual content of the interview and more towards what is visually seen.
Interestingly, this study does not factor in how significant the facial deformity has to be to create this discriminatory effect. It would be logical to assume that the greater the facial problem, the more pronounced the effect is. The interviewee’s demeanor and mannerisms may also play a role in creating this effect as they may unconsciously direct attention to their facial problems.
This research illustrates why it is important that people seek improvements through plastic surgery if possible. While no plastic surgery technique can completely normalize most facial deformities, particularly that of scarring, significant improvements are often possible. Scar revision is a typical example where the concept of reduction or improvement exists but complete elimination or removal is almost never possible. Even small amounts of facial improvement, however, may make a big difference in how those afflicted feel and are perceived.
Dr. Barry Eppley