First impressions may predict aggressive tendencies.
Article Type: Brief article
Subject: Aggressiveness (Psychology) (Research)
Face recognition (Psychology) (Research)
Pub Date: 12/22/2009
Publication: Name: Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association Publisher: American Psychotherapy Association Audience: Academic; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Psychotherapy Association ISSN: 1535-4075
Issue: Date: Winter, 2009 Source Volume: 12 Source Issue: 4
Topic: Event Code: 310 Science & research
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 216961279

A quick glance at someone's facial structure may be enough to predict their tendency towards aggression, according to new findings in Psychological Science. Facial width-to-height ratio (WHR) is determined by measuring the distance between the right and left cheeks and the distance from the upper lip to the mid-brow. During childhood, boys and girls have similar facial structures, but during puberty, males develop a greater WHR than females. Previous research has suggested that males with a larger WHR act more aggressively than those with a smaller WHR.

Psychologists Justin M. Carre, Cheryl M. McCormick, and Catherine J. Mondloch of Brock University conducted an experiment to see if it is possible to predict another person's propensity for aggressive behavior by looking at their photograph. Volunteers viewed photos of faces of men for whom aggressive behavior was previously assessed in the lab. The volunteers rated how aggressive they thought each person was on a scale of one to seven after viewing each face for either 2,000 milliseconds or 39 milliseconds.

Results showed that estimates of aggression correlated highly with the actual aggressive behavior of the faces viewed, even if volunteers saw the picture for only 39 milliseconds. The volunteers' estimates were also highly correlated with WHR of the faces--the greater the WHR, the higher the aggressive rating, suggesting that we may use this aspect of facial structure to judge potential aggression in others. The research shows that differences in face shape may affect personality judgments, which may guide how we respond to certain individuals.

Association for Psychological Science (2009, November 2). Angry Faces: Facial Structure Linked To Aggressive Tendencies, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 9, 2009, from

MCT Illustration by Wes Killingbeck /San Jose Mercury News
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