Can you tell if that guy you just accidentally bumped into at the bar is likely to sucker punch you, just by looking at his ugly mug? In a research study recently published on PLOS ONE (and thankfully simplified and condensed on The Conversation), a group of scientists say that you can.
After synthesizing 56 different research papers which measured participants’ facial width-to-height ratio, they learned quite a bit about our evolutionary social behavior—and came to the conclusion that men with short, wide faces are more likely to be jerks.
The study found that men (and specifically men) with short, wide facial characteristics were more likely to exhibit unpleasant behaviors, ranging from aggression and deceptiveness to straight up prejudice. These men also displayed more dominant characteristics than others and were more successful in business and sports.
Unsurprisingly, men who exhibited these traits had higher levels of testosterone than others—you could just say their bad behavior was due in part to their overactive man hormones.
What’s really interesting is when you factor in other peoples’ responses to these supposedly hyper-aggressive individuals. Of course, there are many calm and complacent people with short, wide faces (just like there are plenty of jerks with long, narrow faces)—but that doesn’t stop people from automatically marking short, wide-faced dudes as a threat.
It all comes down to error management bias, which makes us humans acutely aware of all the possible dangers around us, to help keep us alive. Since a greater proportion of short, wide-faced men are aggressive, we’re hard-wired to have our guard up around them.
Or is it the other way around, and those poor short, wide-faced guys are misunderstood and angry after a life filled with everyone not trusting them? We’ll let the psychologists and philosophers argue about that one. One thing remains true: if that bro you bumped into at the bar has a short, wide face AND he’s wearing an Affliction shirt, put up your dukes—he’s gonna want to throw down.