Big ears don’t necessarily come with baggage

In a small study, onlookers judged big-eared faces as intelligent, likable

People with big ears

NOT DUMBO  Prominent ears on children and teenagers weren’t judged negatively by adult observers, a small study found.

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Prominent ears draw the eyes, and that might not be a bad thing. In a new study, adults spent more time looking at children’s protruding ears than at unexceptional auricles, and the adults didn’t judge the children’s personalities negatively.

Researchers used photos of 20 children and teenagers who had sought surgery to change the appearance of their ears. Twenty adult observers’ gazes lingered a little longer on prominent ears than on ears that had been digitally corrected, researchers report online March 19 in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. When asked to rate certain personality traits, participants actually gave high marks on intelligence, likability and assiduousness to the five children whose auricles drew the most attention.

Those positive ratings were unexpected, says study coauthor Abel-Jan Tasman, a facial plastic surgeon at Cantonal Hospital in St. Gallen, Switzerland. But Tasman cautions that the results are limited and could be due to the study’s small size. And in other settings, such as with kids judging one another, the results could easily differ.

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

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