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Facial Structure May Hold Clues to Aggression

People make judgments based on width-to-height ratio of face, researchers say

FRIDAY, Nov. 13, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- A quick look at a person's innate facial structure may be enough to determine if he or she acts aggressively, a new study says.

New research published in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science suggests that facial width-to-height ratio discloses one's propensity toward aggression -- specifically the ratio of the distance between the right and left cheeks and the distance from the upper lip to the mid-brow.

Research has suggested that a greater ratio translates to more aggression, at least in men. Hockey players with larger ratios, for example, get more penalty minutes in games.

In the new study, researchers at Brock University in Canada asked volunteers to look at photographs of faces and rate their apparent level of aggression on a scale of one to seven. The photos were of men who previously had had their aggression levels rated.

The volunteers did a good job of guessing how aggressive the men were, even if they saw the photos only for a matter of milliseconds, the researchers found.

Also, the estimates of the aggressiveness of the men in the photos closely tracked the ratios in question. The researchers think people may judge aggression in others by looking at facial structure.

More information

Learn more about facial expressions from Carnegie Mellon University.

SOURCE: Association for Psychological Science, news release
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