Facial width-to-height ratio
Facial width-to-height ratio (or short fWHR), is a facial ratio that is derived from measuring the width of the face and dividing this measurement by the length of the midface (which can vary by method of measurement, see below for further detail). fWHR was only discovered in the last few years but in that short amount of time it has been found in some studies that fWHR is correlated with such things as: dominance, aggression, psychopathy, dark triad traits in general, short term attraction, fighting ability, likelihood of committing acts of domestic violence in men, physical robustness, financial success, academic success, risk-taking behavior, trustworthiness, sex drive, status, and prenatal testosterone exposure and/or adult testosterone levels.
While some of these findings have been replicated, others have been criticized on methodological grounds, or have flatly failed to replicate, such as the purported link between fWHR and adolescent or adult serum testosterone levels. Some studies have also found no significant association between fWHR and anti-social behavior (among business executives), or socio-sexuality (promiscuous sexual behavior and unrestrained attitudes towards casual sex) in women.
The purported link between greater fWHR and aggressive behavior may be hard to discern accurately in large, varied samples, as there is preliminary evidence that a man's social status may play a role in moderating the apparent positive relationship between fWHR and anti-social behavior and traits. One group of researchers in 2018 only found evidence for a positive association between fWHR and dark triad traits and physical aggression among lower-income men.
fWHR does not seem to be sexually dimorphic, although the negative association between fWHR and risk of dying from contact-violence is and perceptions of individuals with higher fWHRs as more socially dominant are also sexually dimorphic, suggesting that fWHR does play a role in intrasexual competition among men in contemporary contexts, and thus a higher fWHR may be associated with traits that have been under sexual or natural selective pressures in human evolutionary history.
fWHR and aesthetics[edit | edit source]
Despite the considerable hype surrounding fWHR in circles concerned with aesthetics, there is a lack of evidence directly linking this trait to perceptions of greater male physical attractiveness. A speed dating study conducted in 2014 found a link between higher fWHR in the male participants and greater short-term relationship desirability, but this was found to be mediated by perceptions of dominance, as there was no significant correlation between fWHR and women's ratings of the men's physical attractiveness. Some studies have even found a weak negative correlation between men's fWHR and their physical attractiveness (r̄ = -.26). This may be partially due to the link between greater fWHR and greater levels of facial adiposity.
It also seems unclear as to whether or to what extent a higher fWHR is associated with facial masculinity. Researchers in 2015 has found no positive link between fWHR and rater's evaluations of men's facial masculinity. Another set of researchers also discovered fWHR was negatively correlated with 'global facial masculinity' in their dataset (N = 188, r = -0.32). This may have been confounded somewhat by the positive association between fWHR and greater levels of facial fat, which is a feminine sexually dimorphic trait, derived from the influence women's higher estrogen levels have on their levels of subcutaneous fat and the distribution of said fat. The researchers controlled for BMI but not for facial adiposity in particular.
Very likely the extremes are regarded as unattractive as it is the case with nearly all aesthetic features, i.e. very wide, e.g. adipose, faces in the one extreme, and a very flat face, sometimes called "horseface", in the other extreme. There is evidence that faces have become elongated, i.e. more flat in modern societies, which may have increased the occurrence of horsefaces.
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There is a seemingly conflicting body of research that links greater fWHR to both greater social status and other positive social outcomes (such as greater teacher evaluated performance on school exams, independent of actual academic ability), as well as negative perceptions that may lead to poorer social outcomes, such as perceptions of higher fWHR men as being untrustworthy and volatile.
This suggests that a man's fWHR can either aid or hinder a man's ability to achieve his interpersonal goals depending on the social context he is competing in, as some studies have found no link between fWHR and greater status attainment in certain corporate hierarchies. Perhaps the link between fWHR and social status attainment is dependent on whether the context in which such status is attained rewards pro-social traits, such as likability and perceived trustworthiness or more anti-social/competitive traits such as mere physical dominance and threat potential. Indeed, it has been shown that people display a preference for men with greater fWHR in contexts of physical competition, and intergroup competition (such as contact sports). This may be due to people being more comfortable with aggression toward the out-group as opposed to within the in-group (as fWHR is moderately positively correlated with perceptions of aggressiveness),  or it may simply be down to the fact that men with higher fWHRs are more likely to triumph in intergroup conflicts. A study conducted in 2018 provides support for this hypothesis, as it was found that groups of Chinese business executives with a higher mean fWHR outcompeted other groups in business negotiations.
These negative perceptions can have serious consequences in affecting the decisions people make based on their instinctive appraisals of these men, as people appear to generally treat men with higher fWHR in accord with their superficial negative perceptions of them. This has been found in experimental economic games that involve co-operation and bargaining, such as the one-shot ultimate game, and economic games that involve the choice to either co-operate with or attempt to exploit one's opponent.
Some have argued that this is due to a feedback loop forming where men with traits that appear to others to denote anti-social and aggressive tendencies (such as a higher fWHR) are more likely to be excluded by peers from co-operative, mutually beneficial exchanges. It is argued that this exclusion may consequently lead these men to be conditioned into behaving in a more exploitative and aggressive manner towards others, in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The disparate social outcomes of men with greater fWHR indicated by this research may also be simply down to a greater fWHR being associated with traits that may be generally beneficial in attaining social status, but that may also pose a greater trade-off in terms of the potential interpersonal costs of pursuing such behaviors: such as psychopathic fearless dominance, greater levels of psychopathy in general, actual aggressive behavior (as opposed to just perceptions of aggressive potential), and a greater achievement drive and ruthless ambition (fWHR was moderately positively associated with achievement drive but weakly negatively associated with 'praise and polish' in a sample of historical US presidents).
Measurement styles[edit | edit source]
There are two different ways to measure fWHR.
See also[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Lefevre, C. E., Lewis, G. J., Bates, T. C., Dzhelyova, M., Coetzee, V., Deary, I. J., & Perrett, D. I. (2012). No evidence for sexual dimorphism of facial width-to-height ratio in four large adult samples. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33(6), 623-627
- https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2727&context=soss_research Valentine KA, Norman PLI, Penke L, Perret DI. 2014. Judging a Man by the Width of his Face: The Role of Facial Ratios and Dominance in Mate Choice at Speed-Dating Events. Psychological Science. 25(3): 806-811
- Stirrat, M., & Perrett, D. I. (2010). Valid facial cues to cooperation and trust male facial width and trustworthiness. Psychological science, 21(3), 349-354.
- Lefevre, C. E., Lewis, G. J., Perrett, D. I., & Penke, L. (2013). Telling facial metrics: facial width is associated with testosterone levels in men. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(4), 273-279. "Measure of fWHR: horizontal lines represent the distance between the upper lip and highest point of the eyelids (upper face height), vertical lines represent the maximum distance between the left and right facial boundary (bizygomatic width). fWHR was calculated as width divided by height."
- Tsujimura, H., & Banissy, M. J. (2013). Human face structure correlates with professional baseball performance: insights from professional Japanese baseball players. Biology letters, 9(3), 20130140.
- Carré, J. M., & McCormick, C. M. (2008). In your face: facial metrics predict aggressive behavior in the laboratory and in varsity and professional hockey players. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 275(1651), 2651-2656.
- Loehr, J., & O'Hara, R. B. (2013). Facial morphology predicts male fitness and rank but not.
- Valentine, K. A., Li, N. P., Penke, L., & Perrett, D. I. (2014). Judging a Man by the Width of His Face: The Role of Facial Ratios and Dominance in Mate Choice at Speed-Dating Events. Psychological science, 25(3), 806-811. "Following Weston et al.’s (2007) procedures, Psychomorph was used to calculate the ratio of the distance between the top of the lip and lower part of the brow (facial height) and the distance between the most lateral points of the face by the ears (bizygomatic width) for each male face. Bizygomatic width was divided by facial height to determine fWHR."
- Weston, E. M., Friday, A. E., & Liò, P. (2007). Biometric evidence that sexual selection has shaped the hominin face. PLoS One, 2(8), e710.