The long and short of what makes a leader
Why are people with a particular kind of face trusted in insecure times?
Sunday 10 February 2013
Why the long face? Well, because people trust them, particularly in troubled times, says research suggesting long-faced people are seen as natural leaders.
Homing in on facial cues that suggest tallness, as long faces do, is thought to have evolved from ancestral times when survival depended on choosing the right leader. "Our results suggest we turn towards the most dominant-looking people for leadership, especially when we are faced with a threat," says the psychologist Daniel Re of the University of St Andrews, who led the study.
Height has long been associated with success. In the last century, the taller of the two candidates won most US presidential elections.
In the research, reported in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, volunteers were presented with pictures on a screen of the faces of men and women whose features could be manipulated to make them appear taller or more masculine. They were then told to use the computer to transform the picture to resemble someone they would like to lead their country in peacetime and war.
When looking for a peacetime leader the apparent length was increased by 6 per cent in men's faces and stayed the same for women. But for war, the apparent length was increased by 34.9 per cent in female faces and 45.8 per cent in male ones.
Of course the assumptions made about the leadership qualities of people with long faces can be wide of the mark. While Tony Blair, Britain's longest-serving post-war prime minister stands 6ft in his socks, he has a face that makes him seem short. And then there is the anomaly of Nicolas Sarkozy, who has a long face, but is rather short at 5ft 5in.
The researchers said conclusions were harder to reach with female politicians, as hairstyles can make the face look rounder. Margaret Thatcher had a slightly rounder face (short-looking) but was actually 5'6" in her prime. Among other prominent women, the Duchess of Cambridge is an example of someone who has a rounder face but is actually 5'8", around the average male height. "These results could be troubling for political scientists," say the researchers. "They suggest that leadership choices are affected by face cues irrelevant to political expertise."
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...