Facial Width-to-Height Ratio: A Leadership Trait You Might Find Difficult to Adopt

A new study has compared the facial width-to-height ratio (FWH) of some of the top UK business leaders compared with age and sex-matched controls.

Researchers from the University of Sussex asked 20 students to rate the faces of the top CEOs for the following attributes:

How dominant? (0 = extremely non-dominant, 7 = extremely dominant).
How trustworthy? (0 = extremely untrustworthy, 7 = extremely trustworthy).
How aggressive? (0 = extremely unaggressive, 7 = extremely aggressive).
How attractive? (0 = extremely unattractive, 7 = extremely attractive).
How successful? (0 = extremely unsuccessful, 7 = extremely successful).

The researchers then asked the students to rate a second group of faces, this control group was closely matched to the CEO group, for example matching the presence or absence of facial hair, ethnicity, wearing of glasses, and approximate age.

The researchers found that the CEOs had a higher facial width-to-height ratio when compared with the control group, this difference was statistically significant.

More interestingly the researchers found that the students who rated the faces of the CEOs, rated them as higher in dominance or success. The authors offered two possible ways to explain the results:

There are two possible interpretations of this finding (and they are not mutually exclusive): namely that FWH serves as a reliable marker of some internal disposition relating to dominance or, alternatively, that people select their leaders according to this facial characteristic. On balance, the evidence is more consistent with the former.

It may be useful to consider this and similar research in a wider social and evolutionary context, but as a standalone study does provide evidence of a link between FWH and business leadership (Alrajih & Ward, 2014).