Evidence from meta-analyses of the facial width-to-height ratio as an evolved cue of threat

Geniole, Shawn N., Denson, Thomas F., Dixson, Barnaby J., Carre, Justin M. and McCormick, Cheryl M. (2015) Evidence from meta-analyses of the facial width-to-height ratio as an evolved cue of threat. PLoS One, 10 7: 1-18. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132726

Author Geniole, Shawn N.
Denson, Thomas F.
Dixson, Barnaby J.
Carre, Justin M.
McCormick, Cheryl M.
Title Evidence from meta-analyses of the facial width-to-height ratio as an evolved cue of threat
Journal name PLoS One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2015-07
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0132726
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 10
Issue 7
Start page 1
End page 18
Total pages 18
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
The facial width-to-height ratio (FWHR) is the width of the face divided by the height of the upper face. There is mixed evidence for the hypothesis that the FWHR is a cue of threat and dominance in the human face. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analyses of all peer-reviewed studies (and 2 unpublished studies) to estimate the magnitude of the sex difference in the FWHR, and the magnitude of the relationship between the FWHR and threatening and dominant behaviours and perceptions. Studies were eligible for inclusion if the authors reported an analysis involving the FWHR. Our analyses revealed that the FWHR was larger in men than in women ( = .11, n = 10,853), cued judgements of masculinity in men ( = .35, n of faces = 487; n of observers = 339), and was related to body mass index ( = .31, n = 2,506). Further, the FWHR predicted both threat behaviour in men ( = .16, n = 4,603) and dominance behaviour in both sexes ( = .12, n = 948) across a variety of indices. Individuals with larger FWHRs were judged by observers as more threatening ( = .46, n of faces = 1,691; n of observers = 2,076) and more dominant ( = .20, n of faces = 603; n of observers = 236) than those with smaller FWHRs. Individuals with larger FWHRs were also judged as less attractive ( = -.26, n of faces = 721; n of observers = 335), especially when women made the judgements. These findings provide some support for the hypothesis that the FWHR is part of an evolved cueing system of intra-sexual threat and dominance in men. A limitation of the meta-analyses on perceptions of threat and dominance were the low number of stimuli involving female and older adult faces.
Keyword Emotionally neutral faces
Aggressive behavior
Sexual dimorphism
Fighting ability
Hockey players
Social status
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Psychology Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 4 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 6 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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