A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies | View All


People with thin, soft, looser or porcelain-like skin tend to be more impressionable both emotionally and physically....Those with thin, fine hair are refined emotionally....A thick, full lower lip indicates spontaneous generosity to friends and strangers as well as talkativeness....A ski-slope upturned nose person will usually be...a poor money manager. --George Roman, personology expert

Personology is a New Age variation of the ancient pseudoscience of physiognomy, which holds that outward appearance, especially the face, is the key to a person's predominant temper and character. The theory of personology, like graphology, seems to be based on sympathetic magic and intuition.

Personology was developed in the 1930s by Edward Jones, a Los Angeles judge, according to Naomi Tickle, author of It's All in the Face -The Key to Finding Your Life Purpose (1997). She is also the founder of the International Centre for Personology (not to be confused with the Personology Institute of San Diego nor the Institute for Advanced Studies in Personology and Psychopathology in Coral Gables, Florida). According to Ms. Tickle, the judge "became fascinated by the relationship between facial features and behavior patterns of the people who appeared before him in court." Then, like many naive people, he thought his personal observations were free of bias and constituted scientific data. Judge Jones even taught his "new science" to the public. 

Judge Jones may have been very good at cold reading, but he did not do controlled experiments to minimize the effects of the self-deception and confirmation bias that hinder all of us from properly evaluating our experiences. He should have been  especially concerned about the Forer effect, given the history of other similar attempts at divining character, such as astrology, phrenology and rumpology.

Judge Jones made the same mistake that Franz-Joseph Gall, the creator of phrenology, made: he thought he observed a pattern and made no effort to scientifically test his thought. Gall thought he saw a pattern between bumps on the head and types of insanity and criminality. Jones thought he saw a pattern of facial similarities of people charged with similar crimes. Neither considered that once they came to believe in these notions, they would find it easy to confirm their beliefs.

According to Ms. Tickle, the "science" was done by Robert L. Whiteside, a newspaper editor, who "used 1068 subjects and found the accuracy to be better than 90%." Whiteside is the author of Face Language (New York, F. Fell Publishers; 1974). Whiteside became an advocate after watching Jones do a cold reading of his wife at a public lecture. Whiteside was amazed that Jones could know so much about his wife without knowing her. One searches in vain, however, for publications by Mr. Whiteside in scientific journals. Although Whiteside and his work have been universally ignored by the scientific community, the growth of personology has not been hindered. 

Further "science" has been added by another Whiteside. According to Bill Whiteside, who says he was trained by Robert Whiteside, there is a scientific connection between genetics and behavior and genetics and physical appearance. Therefore, he concludes in a lovely non sequitur, there must be a connection between behavior and physical appearance.

Over the years, [scientists] have conclusively proven that our genetic inheritance shows up in our structure and, therefore, so do our behavior patterns.

He might as well argue that since eye color is genetically determined, eye color is a key to understanding personality.

According to Bill Whiteside,

There are 68 behavioral traits in Personology. A trained observer identifies each one with sight, measurement or touch. There are five trait areas: Physical, Automatic Expression, Action, Feeling and Emotion, and Thinking. The placement of each trait into an area develops logically from its location and relationship to a corresponding area of the brain.

This all sounds very scientific, but nothing we know about the brain supports these notions.

In short, personology is attractive because its proponents are amazed at how accurate it is. Their amazement is largely due to lack of understanding of such things as  cold readingconfirmation bias, the Forer effect, and subjective validation. The belief in personology is strengthened by the fact that its advocates seek only confirmatory data for their belief. They not only ignore all the data from the neurosciences that contradict their beliefs, they do not systematically attempt to test them in ways that might prove them false.

See also graphology and sympathetic magic.

reader comments

further reading


Ekman Paul & Erika L. Rosenberg, eds. 1997. What The Face Reveals : Basic and Applied Studies of Spontaneous Expression Using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). Oxford University Press.


People Reading

Personology - Instant Personality Analysis by George Roman, personologist, Vedic astrologer, and psychic

International Centre for Personology

Face Reading in the UK

Last updated 01-Dec-2013

© Copyright 1994-2016 Robert T. Carroll * This page was designed by Cristian Popa.