Wide-faced business man

The distinguishing physical factor that gives men a leg up

Elizabeth Bromstein|

Broad-faced men make more money than the rest of us.

This is according to new research led by Michael Haselhuhn, a management professor at the University of California, Riverside.

Business Week reports that in one study of a group of business school students negotiating for fictional signing bonuses, Haselhuhn found that wide-faced candidates landed bonuses close to $11,000, while skinnier-faced negotiators only managed to get an average of $8,700 – a difference of a cool $2,300.

Why? Because men with wide faces are kind of bullies.

According to the research paper’s abstract, Haselhuhn and colleagues found across four
studies that “men with greater facial width-to-height ratios are less cooperative negotiators compared to men with smaller facial ratios. As a result, they manager to claim more value, but are less able to come to creative agreements that benefit all parties.”

The difference did not apply to women, just men.

I wondered how Haselhuhn came to focus on facial width. He tells me that previous research that came out in 2008 showed that men with broader faces are more physically aggressive. For example, professional hockey players with wider faces spend more time in the penalty box.

“We immediately started thinking about how this might be relevant in the workplace,” he said. “Physical violence in the corporate world is rare, but there are forms of social aggression that we see every day, such as lying to others or acting competitively to benefit one’s self at the expense of others. We were interested to see whether the research on physical violence would translate to social aggression. And as we’ve found in a number of papers, it does.”

It turns out that wider-faced men are more dishonest and tend to act more unethically, one of the things that gives them a leg up in negotiations. In 2011, Haselhuhn released research showing that these men were three times more likely to lie in negotiations than those with thinner faces. He also found that they were more likely to cheat at dice games.

Asked whether he had any theories about the broad face = dishonest + unethical behaviour equation, Haselhuhn said, “We found that men with wider faces feel more powerful, and it is this sense of power that leads them to act less ethically. Previous research has established that people who feel powerful are less inhibited by social norms, such as the expectation that people should tell the truth.

“There are two likely reasons for why wider-faced men feel more powerful. First, larger facial width-to-height ratios are associated with higher levels of testosterone in men, and testosterone is associated with feeling dominant, powerful, etc. Second, men with wider faces may learn to feel more powerful based on how they are treated by others. People perceive wider-faced men as more self-interested and aggressive, and may respond to this by avoiding confrontation with such men. In turn, wider-faced men see that others defer to them and allow them to take the lion’s share of resources for themselves, and they consequently feel as though they have power over others.”

Haselhuhn’s team has also reportedly found that Fortune 500 companies led by men with broad faces also achieve greater financial success.

Separate research by Katherine Valentine at the Singapore Management University found that men with wide faces are also more attractive to women, but only has short-term partners.


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