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A Man's Face Reveals His Personality

Men may think they have a poker face that reveals nothing about who they really are, but the discerning eye can see right through that. Thanks to the effect of testosterone there is a very real association between male looks and personality, according to University of Michigan researchers.

When a woman sees a highly masculine face, she may see the outward three-day beard stubble and chiseled jaw, but when she compares that face to one that is less masculine, inwardly she is thinking:

  • This is a man who is highly competitive, so he may engage in riskier behavior.
  • This is a man who is more likely to get into a fight.
  • This is a man who will make a more concerted effort to mate so he may be more likely to cheat.
  • This is a man who will make less effort toward parenting so he is less likely to be a good and highly involved father.
Controversial though it is, that's the conclusion of social psychologist Daniel J. Kruger based on a series of online experiments with 854 male and female undergraduate students. He and his team showed the students versions of composite male faces that had been altered to look more or less masculine by adjusting, for example, the shape of the jaw, the strength of brow ridges and the thickness of lips. Participants were asked which of the men they preferred as mates, dates, parents of their children or companions for their girlfriends. They were also asked which men were most likely to behave in certain ways--starting a fight or hitting on someone else's girlfriend, for example.

"It's remarkable that minor physiological differences lead people to pre-judge a man's personality and behavior," said Kruger, a research scientist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and the Institute for Social Research. "But even though physiognomy (the attribution of personality to faces) is thought to be a pseudoscience, a lot of people believe there's a link between looks and personality."

A kernel of truth? In terms of evolutionary psychology, there may be a kernel of truth in that belief, Kruger said. Facial masculinity is related to levels of testosterone during development, and testosterone levels are related to rates of infidelity, violence and divorce. "Facial masculinity may serve as a visual cue in female mate choice, much as the tail of the male peacock signals females about male fitness to reproduce," Kruger said.

"Both men and women generally respond to men with high and low facial masculinity in ways that could be expected to benefit their own reproductive success," he added. "While the more masculine-looking men may be good bets for mating, the more feminine-looking men may be better bets as parenting partners. More feminine features suggest compassion and kindness, indicating that men are able and willing to invest in a long-term relationship and in any potential children."

The study findings were published in the academic journal Personal Relationships.

--From the Editors at Netscape

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