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Wide-faced men are not just liars and cheaters, they’re prejudiced too!

Friday, February 22, 2013
posted by Douglas Keene

wide faced man 2Model Cameron Russell has been making the rounds of various talk shows saying she is a successful underwear model not because she is particularly gifted or talented, but because she won a “genetic lottery”. Well, we bet wide-faced men are wishing they had won a genetic lottery because things are just not looking good for them. Last time we visited the topic of the wide-faced man it was to look at research telling us that, in comparison to skinny-headed men, the wide-faced man was judged by observers as being more likely to “lie and cheat”.

New research tells us the wide-faced man is more likely to explicitly endorse racially prejudiced beliefs. And not only are they more likely to do this, we anticipate they will be racist just by looking at them. That is, we are inclined to presume that wide-faced men are racist. Because they have wide-faces. And according to this research, it’s true.

These researchers believe the wide-faced man has a higher level of testosterone and is therefore more likely to be dominant, likely to be less inhibited when it comes to expressing prejudice, and more likely to be seen by others as being more prejudiced than less wide-faced men. They completed three separate studies to investigate these questions and all of these hypotheses were supported in their research. An additional and intriguing finding was that minority participants were “more motivated to accurately assess targets’ prejudice than were majority-group members”. They were also more accurate in estimating the prejudice of the particular wide-faced man. The researchers opine that this finding (wide-faced men are more prejudiced and more likely to overtly express their attitudes) adds to the body of research on how biology determines personality characteristics.

One of the problems we often encounter with research reports is the mighty leap that is taken between a finding (“wide-faced men harbor racial prejudice, just as people expect”, and causation (“wide-faced men have more testosterone which causes them to be domineering and uninhibited.”). Really? Is that a fact? Like the actual observed finding? No, it isn’t. It’s a theory. It may be based on some correlational data, but it could be as much due to other ‘causes’, or even coincidence. Beware of sensationalist research. And especially beware of glib causation assertions that goes so far beyond the data.

Given the findings in this research, we encourage you to read our original post on strategies to de-accentuate the impact of your own wide-face or your client’s wide face. In addition to simply buttressing the initial study’s results, this one also tells us that minority individuals are going to be especially attuned to bias and prejudice in wide-faced men. It becomes especially important, if you have minority members on your jury, that you are sure to inoculate jurors against their own biases and assumptions by educating them on the stereotypes against the wide-faced man.

Hehman E, Leitner JB, Deegan MP, & Gaertner SL (2013). Facial Structure Is Indicative of Explicit Support for Prejudicial Beliefs. Psychological Science. PMID: 23389425


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