Cutting-Edge Leadership

The best in current leadership research and theory, from cultivating charisma to transforming your organization

What Does the Shape of Your Face Say About You?

Is your face sexually attractive?

Research in nonverbal communication has shown that the shape of a person’s face tells a lot about how sexually attractive he or she is, and can also convey a sense of trust, dominance, and good health.

One facial feature that is consistently related to ratings of attractiveness, for both males and females, is facial symmetry. Facial symmetry is where both sides of the face, right and left, are alike. The more assymetrical, the less sexually attractive one is, likely because facial asymmetry is related to illness and disease.

You can explore facial symmetry here.

Facial features are also important in sexual attractiveness. Men prefer female faces to be highly “feminized,” which includes more childlike, or “babyfaced,” features, such as larger than average size eyes and lips. This is likely because babyfaced features suggest youth and female fertility.

Women, on the other hand, find men’s faces with wider jaws more attractive because wide jaws suggest strength and sexual maturity.

Both males and females also tend to prefer facial features that are close to the average in terms of size and shape. So, very large or small noses, lips, and ears, are considered less attractive.

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There is also emerging research that suggests that certain types of faces are viewed as more trustworthy, and there are implications for leadership. For example, in a series of studies it has been consistently demonstrated that people can correctly predict the winner of elections by simply looking at photos of the candidates’ faces. Although the exact features have not been identified, some facial cues seem to convey a sense of trustworthiness and leadership potential. You can read more about this here.

Of course, facial shape and features represent only a few of the elements of beauty and sexual attractiveness. There are other nonverbal cues, such as the shape of a person’s body, hairstyle and grooming (makeup, dress), tone of voice, and dynamic expressive cues that are also very important in making a person attractive.

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Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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