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Protruding ears, negative perceptions?

The results are in from a Swiss study that attempts to quantify the extent to which a person’s exceedingly protruding ears might have an effect on how others perceive him or her.

According to researchers from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at Cantonal Hospital, St. Gallen, Switzerland, protruding ears often are considered a stigma that leads to negative effects, which in turn can indicate corrective aesthetic otoplasty in patients too young to give informed consent. However, they also point out that the negative effects purportedly caused by protruding ears have never been quantified.

In an effort to quantify the effect of protruding ears on the perception of selected personality traits, the researchers conducted an observational study from August 1, 2013, to October 31, 2013. They recorded the visual scan paths of 20 lay observers looking at photographs of faces of 20 young people, ranging in age from 5 to 19 years, with protruding ears or ears morphed via computer software to appear non-protruding. The observers rated 10 perceived personality traits based on the photographs.

What They Found

 

What They Found

The researchers compared and correlated observers’ visual-fixation time on protruding versus non-protruding ears with their scores for personality traits. The researchers found that fixation time on protruding ears was significantly longer compared with that for morphed non-protruding ears (9.6% versus 5.8%, respectively, of total fixation time. However, the difference between the overall personality questionnaire scores and individual scores for assiduousness, intelligence and likeability was not significant for protruding and non-protruding ears. Faces in which protruding ears received the highest percentage of visual attention scored higher than average for the overall personality scores and for assiduousness, intelligence and likeability as compared with the faces with non-protruding ears.

The verdict, write the study authors, is that “protruding ears had the potential to draw viewers’ attention but did not cause a negative perception of personality traits. This study, therefore, does not provide confirmatory evidence for the stigmatizing nature of protruding ears.”

The study appears in the May/June issue of JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.

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