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The prediction of personality functioning from facial appearances and expression.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in the science of antiquity and of certain later periods, the study of the direct connection between the outward appearance and character of a person or an animal.

Physiognomy is rooted in the ancient practice of incorporating experience of life into folklore and the lore of sorcerers, fortune tellers, and the like. Physiognomic observations became part of the cultures of the ancient East; in the classical era they were systematized in the same way as other scientific disciplines of the time. Proportions of the face and body, characteristic gestures and facial expressions, and types of posture, build, and carriage of the body were described and classified.

In antiquity physiognomy was associated with the theory of temperaments and with Hippocrates’ theory of the dependence of an individual’s or a people’s physical and mental makeup on climate. Physiognomy was also related to the system of moral types (“characters”) worked out by Theophrastus and other students of Aristotle and to the use of types in classical literature, as exemplified by the character masks in New Comedy and the techniques of verbal portraiture in classical rhetoric, historiography, and biography.

Physiognomy was based on the notion prevalent in antiquity that the actions and behavior of every person are rigidly determined by his inborn character. According to Heraclitus, a person’s character was his “demon,” that is, his fate; similar statements were made by Epicharmus, Democritus, and Plato. It was believed that every person’s association with a moral type was just as clear and obvious, just as tangible and biological, as his physical features.

The classical tradition of physiognomy was reflected in the culture of Byzantium and of medieval Western Europe; it had a particularly strong influence on Arab science and on the cabala of Jewish mysticism. Some Western European scientists, for example, G. della Porta in De humana physiognomonia (1586), resumed the study of physiognomy between the 16th and 18th centuries. However, the establishment of new scientific criteria in the 17th and 18th centuries relegated physiognomy to the realms of common sense and artistic intuition. In his Physiognomical Fragments (1775–78), J. K. Lavater failed in an attempt to restore physiognomy to the status of a science. Similar attempts by such epigones of German romanticism as R. Kassner and L. Klages also failed to achieve acceptance. Klages’ graphology and characterology may be mentioned in this connection.


Scriptores physiognomonici graeci et latini, vols. 1–2. Edited by R. Foerster. Leipzig, 1893.
Evans, E. C. Physiognomies in the Ancient World. Philadelphia, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Physiognomically speaking, the temperate deciduous forest is a system, with various phases which adopts a different aspect throughout the course of the year, with important consequences which are related to course of the nutrient cycles, as these pass through a phase of mass monement, a phase of storage in the layer of dead leaves and wood, and a phase of chemical transformation and mineralisation.
A major effect of humans throughout the Neotropics is conversion of floristically diverse, physiognomically complex natural habitats to generally simpler agricultural habitats, many of which support few wintering migrants (Rappole and Morton 1985, Terborgh 1989, Greenberg 1992, Lynch 1992, Rappole et al.
Pierce, Florida, that were physiognomically similar except that one was a rookery (high nutrient) while the other island was not (low nutrient).
Innocent may have been indifferent to the expression Velazquez gave him, or possibly he was pleased by it as an outward sign of a man dangerous to trifle with, but one cannot, today at least, refrain from drawing lessons from the fact that this highest position in the universal church should have been occupied by a man whose character was so at odds with the charity and love that ought to be emblemized physiognomically. It is a tension not easily rationalized, though in its own right it may express a deep truth of Catholicism.
Linguistically, culturally, historically, politically, even physiognomically, West Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia have very little in common.
This category is intended to include a type of formation that is physiognomically differentiated due to an abundant density of "grass forms in which forbs have a coverage value of less than 50%" (Pisano, 1977: 232).
Typically, these are predicted to be more open formations physiognomically resembling scrub thicket, savanna, grassland, or woodland but containing SDTF elements.
However, the vegetation suggested by our macrofossil data may have been physiognomically similar to Arctic tree-line vegetations, with tundra-covered uplands and trees in the valley bottoms and on some steep slopes (Larsen.