Measuring Trustworthiness or Automating Physiognomy? A Comment on Safra, Chevallier, Grèzes, and Baumard (2020)
Interpersonal trust - a shared display of confidence and vulnerability toward other individuals - can be seen as instrumental in the development of human societies. Safra, Chevallier, Grèzes, and Baumard (2020) studied the historical progression of interpersonal trust by training a machine learning (ML) algorithm to generate trustworthiness ratings of historical portraits, based on facial features. They reported that trustworthiness ratings of portraits dated between 1500--2000CE increased with time, claiming that this evidenced a broader increase in interpersonal trust coinciding with several metrics of societal progress. We argue that these claims are confounded by several methodological and analytical issues and highlight troubling parallels between Safra et al.'s algorithm and the pseudoscience of physiognomy. We discuss the implications and potential real-world consequences of these issues in further detail.
- Pub Date:
- February 2022
- Computer Science - Machine Learning;
- Computer Science - Artificial Intelligence;
- Computer Science - Computers and Society
- 3 pages, 1 figure