Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Facial width-to-height ratio predicts aggression

Carré et al. find that observers can make accurate judgments of propensity for aggression in men from faces displaying neutral expressions, even when exposure to the faces is limited to 39 ms. Individual participants reliably judged men with larger facial width to height ratios as more aggressive. Here is their abstract and a figure from the paper showing the width and height determination:
Facial width-to-height ratio is a sexually dimorphic metric that is independent of body size and may have been shaped by sexual selection. We recently showed that this metric is correlated with behavioral aggression in men. In Study 1, observers estimated the propensity for aggression of men photographed displaying neutral facial expressions and for whom a behavioral measure of aggression was obtained. The estimates were correlated strongly with the facial width-to-height ratio of the stimulus faces and with the actual aggression of the men. These results were replicated in Study 2, in which the exposure to each stimulus face was shortened to 39 ms. Participants' estimates of aggression for each stimulus face were highly correlated between Study 2 (39-ms exposure) and Study 1 (2,000-ms exposure). These findings suggest that the facial width-to-height ratio may be a cue used to predict propensity for aggression in others.

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