Angry Faces: Facial Structure Linked To
Aggressive Tendencies, Study Suggests

According to a report in ScienceDaily, angry words and gestures are not the only way to get a sense of how temperamental a person is. According to new findings in Psychological Science, a quick glance at someone's facial structure may be enough for us to predict their tendency towards aggression.

Facial width-to-height ratio (WHR) is determined by measuring the distance between the right and left cheeks and the distance from the upper lip to the mid-brow. A high WHR means the width of the face is greater that the height -- in other words, a wide face.

During childhood, boys and girls have similar facial structures, but during puberty, males develop a greater WHR than females. Previous research has suggested that males with a larger WHR act more aggressively than those with a smaller WHR.

A good example of this can be seen in the aggressive sport of hockey. Studies have shown that hockey players with greater WHR earn more penalty minutes for fighting and aggression per game than players with lower WHR.

Next time you're getting your face scraped along the boards by the other team's enforcer, try and take a peek at his sneering mug.

Chances are it's wider than yours, according to a new Brock University study that equates the width of a hockey player's face with his or her aggressive tendencies.

"Playing hockey ... you can almost tell just by looking at them that this person might be more aggressive than another person," says Justin Carré, a graduate student and the lead study author. The study appears today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biology.

Psychologists Justin M. Carré, Cheryl M. McCormick, and Catherine J. Mondloch of Brock University conducted an experiment to see if it is possible to predict another person's propensity for aggressive behavior simply by looking at their photograph. It makes sense that our brains would evolve to warn us of an aggressive person so that we could adjust our activity or flee the environment and avoid injury.

Volunteers viewed photographs of faces of men for whom aggressive behavior was previously assessed in the lab. The volunteers had no idea how the photographed subjects rated on the aggression scale. After viewing the photographs, the volunteer subjects rated how aggressive they thought each person was on a scale of one to seven. They were allowed to view the photographs of each face for either 2000 milliseconds or 39 milliseconds.

The photographs were very revealing. The Volunteer subjects estimates of how aggressive the photographed person was agreed with the results of the prior assessment. This was true even if they saw the picture for only 39 milliseconds.

Apparently the brain can decide whether a person is aggressive almost instantly!

Even more interesting was the fact that the volunteer subjects estimated a higher aggression assessment to photographed faces with higher WHR ratios -- the greater the WHR, the higher the aggressive rating, suggesting that we may use this aspect of facial structure to judge potential aggression in others. These findings indicate that subtle differences in face shape may affect personality judgments, which may, in turn, guide how we respond to certain individuals.

What role does this play in "sex appeal"?

In a recent article here on viewzone, Dan Eden reported that facial symmetry was a key factor in our appreciation of beauty and attractiveness. Perhaps facial width is also in play here. Could it be that a wide faced woman would be viewed as too aggressive by a male? Could this make her less attractive? Could a thin face on a man be seen as a sign of being timid and a "turn off" to women? It seems entirely logical.

The next time you are looking at people, pay attention to their facial width. What do you think? We'd like to hear from you.

Viewzone || Comments? || Body Mind Spirit

Comments: Well you have to make a distinction between being fat faced or just having wide bone sturcture. I know many women who are attractive and have broad faces. Look at Brook Shields, for example. But also, being attractive is not the same as being sexually desirable. I mean I would not consider Brook Shields as a mate -- even as a fantasy. Do you see what I mean? Beauty is one thing that we can all more or less agree on but when it comes to being sexually attractive to each person personally then the matter of how aggressive or dominating a potential mate wold be is a matter of personal preference.

Mark G.

I personally prefer thin faced men. I find they are less self-centered and more polite and gentle, caring about my feelings more than some big headed guy. But maybe that's just me.

Sarah. L.

I agree with the post so far -- it is a matter of personal choice. I dated a woman with a wide face and she was not agressive at all. So these studies are not the end all of understanding what makes a person tick. It has more to do with upbringing, I think, and ones view of themselves. An aggressive person can sometimes be really insecure but shows ggression out of fear of other people.

Tim G.