Men: Exude confidence, masculinity, authority, and power!
Toupees and hair transplants are out. And comb-overs were always out. Now, the real man seen as having leadership potential shaves his head. Sure people will think you are [significantly] less attractive–but they will also think you are taller, stronger, older, more dominant and perhaps most importantly, more of a leader.
The research we are looking at today involved a set of three studies–all of which showed a power and dominance effect associated with “shorn scalps”. This is surprising as previous research has found balding men are rated less positively and have “diminished standing”. This research focused on men with shaved heads–as opposed to men slowly but inexorably losing hair.
When the first two studies found the men with shaved heads were seen as more dominant (and taller!), Mannes decided to directly compare reactions to the same man described a bit differently in the final experiment. Here is what participants were told about “John”:
“John is a white, non-Hispanic male, 35 years of age. He works in the health care sector and has a basic college education. He lives in the mid-west United States. He is 5’ 9″ tall, weighs 180 pounds, and has [a shaved head/thinning brown hair/thick brown hair].”
Then they were asked to rate “John” on various randomly ordered traits. You may be thinking this is a pretty thin description upon which to base trait ratings but the participants rose to the challenge. And you can probably guess how it all turned out.
John with a thick head of hair was seen as most confident and attractive.
John with the shaved head was rated the highest in dominance, masculinity, norm violation (ratings of normal–abnormal, proper–improper, and seemly–unseemly), leadership potential, and strength.
And John with the thinning hair sadly scored lowest on all ratings (except for norm violation).
You’re cute and confident with a full head of hair. You’re not seen as abnormal with thinning hair but not thought of much otherwise. And when you have a shaved head, you are dominant and tall and even more of a leader. The only real downside for men with shorn scalps is that they were perceived as significantly less attractive than men with thick and luxurious hair.
So it appears that you can improve perceptions of your leadership potential by, as the author puts it, “finishing what Mother Nature has started”. This may be the modern day equivalent of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. The author explains the results in this way:
“In U.S. society, moreover, shaved heads are often found on men in traditionally masculine professions, so dominance may emerge through stereotypical associations with these figures.”
As an aside, the author of this research (Albert Mannes) attended a military academy and has an MBA and a PhD and specializes in Organizational Behavior. He is currently on faculty at Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business. You may be interested in knowing whether he sports a shaved head himself (of course he does!).
Mannes, Albert (2012). Shorn Scalps and Perceptions of Male Dominance. Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550612449490