Wide-faced selfishness

What is it about wide faces? The wide-mouthed frog has spawned what French & Saunders called the funniest joke of all time (you can check it out on the web and make up your own mind). The wide grin of a crocodile is treated with universal scepticism. Wide-faced men have been found in previous research to be more likely to lead financially successful businesses. Research has also shown that wide-faced men are more likely to lie and cheat. Now a new study has shown that the wide-faced man’s nature is so deeply embedded in our psyche that other people’s behaviour is also affected by him.

In the first of a series of studies researchers had their subjects perform “resource allocation tasks” that involved them making economic choices that would affect both them and an anonymous partner. The results showed that men with wide faces (those who had a face width to face height ratio) tended to behave more selfishly when dividing the resources between themselves and their anonymous partner. Essentially the wide-faced men made decisions that maximised their own self-interest.

In a second study the same game was played but this time the researchers showed the subjects pictures of their supposed “partner” in the game. The results showed that subjects changed their behaviour based on their partner’s face width.

When people believed that they were playing with a partner with a wide face they tended to behave more selfishly themselves. The researchers believe that the subjects were anticipating selfish behaviour from their wide-faced partner and were compensating accordingly to protect themselves.

In all, the results show that not only do men with wide-faces tend to behave more selfishly but they trigger selfishness in others. It is all to do with hormonal exposure influencing facial dimension and this being recognised by us all at an unconscious level. What it all adds up to is the fact that you shouldn’t be surprised if, at the next wedding you attend, when the minister asks “If anyone objects to this marriage let them speak now or forever hold their peace” there is someone who jumps up and shouts, “Don’t trust him Kim! His face is just too wide! Take me, I’m narrow-faced but I love you!”. It could happen.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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