Never trust a man with a wide face
We’ve written twice before about wide-faced men, but we have something new! This time, it isn’t just those wide-faced men who are going to lie, cheat and be prejudiced. They are also going to make you behave selfishly just by interacting with them. Your selfish behavior is going to make others behave selfishly and the cycle will never end! It’s probably better, when you see a wide-faced man coming, to just turn and walk the opposite way.
In the event you have forgotten, researchers compare the ratio of a man’s facial width to his facial height to determine wide-face status. Men with wider faces have proven to be more aggressive, less trustworthy, more prone to deception and more prejudiced. (Apparently, higher levels of testosterone cause the face to widen so, yes, wide-faced men do have higher levels of testosterone.) All this research has been done by evolutionary psychologists (who have completed some of the more entertaining work highlighted on our blog). This research, unlike that of the evolutionary psychologists, looks at possible social and interactional drivers rather than entirely biological drivers in the behaviors of wide-faced men.
Specifically, the researchers wonder if the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy could be at work. Perhaps, we treat men with wide faces in ways that elicit their aggressive and self-interested behavior. We expect them to behave in a certain way, so we interact with them in a way that elicits the behavior we expected in the first place. It is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The researchers conducted four separate studies to examine their hypotheses and here is what they found:
In the first study, each participant worked alone and were told to divide up resources between themselves and an unseen other. Men with wider faces were more selfish when it came to dividing up scarce resources between themselves and another. Indeed, they tried to get as many resources as they could for their sole use.
Participants in a second study were shown photos of their partner for the project. Those who thought they were dividing scarce resources with a wide-faced man behaved more selfishly than did those shown a photo of a more narrow-faced man.
In the third study, the researchers manipulated photos of the same person to make him appear to be either wide-faced or narrow-faced. In this experiment, participants were asked to predict how their partner would behave and then they made their own decisions for the resource allocation. Those participants paired with a wide-faced man were more likely to anticipate selfish behavior from him than were those participants paired with a narrow-faced man. When the participant anticipated selfish behavior from their wide-faced partner, they were more likely to make selfish choices themselves.
Finally, the researchers wanted to see how the selfish behavior of wide-faced men and the expectation that wide-faced men would behave selfishly might be linked. In the fourth study, participants were randomly assigned to conditions where they “were treated as if they were a wide-faced man (N = 101) or a narrow faced man (N = 99)”. In both conditions, participants were informed of their partner’s decision to either keep resources or share them. And guess what?! Being treated as though you were a wide-faced man made the participants less cooperative than those who were treated as though they were more narrow-faced. In other words, if you expect selfish behavior, that’s what you will elicit.
The researchers say that the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy eliciting the selfish behavior from a wide-faced man is supported. Men with wide faces generally get less cooperation and more competition from others (when compared to men with narrower faces. The researchers agree that there may be both biological (i.e., higher testosterone may lead to more aggression and competitiveness) and social factors (i.e., a self-fulfilling prophecy) at work but they conclude it isn’t all about biology.
From a litigation advocacy perspective, the recommendations we made in 2012 still apply.
First, be aware of the tendency to (often unconsciously) judge these men differently. If you know the person to be a good guy, you are likely to overlook this level of judgment by strangers.
You want to show that your wide-faced client/witness is different from other wide-faced men, and help the jury to understand that they are a lot like the juror and their friends. Include in their testimony evidence and testimony that defies the prejudice.
If you have your own wide face, you want to pay attention to communicating gentleness, and thoughtfulness to others as you interact in the courtroom.
Place your wide-faced client in context for jurors. If the individual was involved in a group endeavor, their motivations may have been supportive and prosocial. It will be important to show jurors examples of the individual self-sacrificing or generous acts the wide-faced party performed.
Haselhuhn MP, Wong EM, & Ormiston ME (2013). Self-Fulfilling Prophecies as a Link between Men’s Facial Width-to-Height Ratio and Behavior. PloS one, 8 (8) PMID: 24015226