Physiognomy Theory Essay

Physiognomy also known as the Arts and Sciences of the face, dates back to Aristotle’s era. This philosophy was first used by the Greek and spread to places as far as Asia and the Middle East within a short period of time. It became very popular especially in Asia, where people would use this to determine people’s suitability for jobs and important government positions. The number of important people such as Emperors, successful professionals and government officials that believed in this theory also helped the rapid spread of physiognomy throughout the continents.

Back then, most people were convinced that this so called science could not only determine their personality as well as their fate but also help them make better choices in life. Physiognomy claims that an individual’s character, destiny and the ability to perform certain tasks in life, can be defined by studying his facial features. Studies done throughout time have failed to back up this theory, confirming that physiognomy is just another pseudoscience.

Physiognomy and its uses and definition have changed overtime according to people’s needs. Figuring out the traits and behavioral trends of people was not enough; so physiognomy experts then argued that people’s characteristics had a connection with the signs of the zodiac.

As the numbers of followers of Physiognomy grew, so did the demand for physiognomists, or face readers as they were called, turning this philosophy into a profitable worldwide business. After many years, physiognomy was revived and it is now used and believed to work efficiently to determine criminal tendencies in people. Physiognomy became more credible to people, when a U.S. judge backed up the theory after observing the facial features of those that appeared in his court. Physiognomy, is the study of facial features that allows philosophers to determine an individual’s traits and flaws. This theory supposedly ascertains different factors in someone’s life, such as moral values, self control, social and criminal tendencies. People’s abilities are also things that are supposedly defined by reading the facial aspects of an individual. It is also believed that this theory predicts the fate of people by studying certain parts of the face as the eyes, mouth and nose.

Skin color, hair type, voice, forehead lines and certain body parts are considered when evaluating an individual. The shape of someone’s skull, or the way that the soft tissue sits on it, can also say something about the character and true identity of the person being evaluated. The theory of physiognomy has been tested many times since its discovery, thousands of years ago. However, none of the experiments done to prove it have been successful. The deficiency of scientific evidence to verify the theory, is the reason why physiognomy is considered a philosophy rather than science. Most studies done by advocates of this philosophy, have and still do lack an explanation of how and why the theory works. Supporters of physiognomy have taken advantage of certain circumstances in which someone’s facial traits help determine a condition. Some genetic diseases for example have specific facial features which help diagnose the illness.

Down’s syndrome and DeLange syndrome are good examples of these diseases. Supporters of this theory often compare these diseases to physiognomy as a way to prove the theory. Just like Down’s syndrome and Delange syndrome are used as evidence of this pseudo- science, so are many other similar conditions. The studies done by non-advocates of this theory have proved that a person’s character and behavior cannot be defined by examining the facial features. Studies have shown that a relation between facial traits and someone’s personality does not exist. There are many factors that are scientifically proven to have influence over the development of an individual’s personality and temperament during their lifetime.

Several studies with people of all ages and from different backgrounds have stated various reasons that in the long run shape someone’s character. The way that a child is raised, his parents’ traits and flaws and the people that he is surrounded by have an impact on personality. Culture and different ethnic backgrounds are also factors that have an effect on someone’s personality and the person that they grow up to be later on in life. Personal experiences and certain events with emotional value for a person are among the causes that influence an individual’s character, mentality, social and emotional life.


“Physiognomy – LoveToKnow 1911.” 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica – Free Online. 6 Oct. 2006. Web. 16 Feb. 2010. <>. “Introduction to Physiognomy – Face Reading the Facial Features.” A Human Face. Web. 16 Feb. 2010. <>.

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