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."
Animals found with 'puncture holes the size of a human finger'
Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
- 3 Black Friday 2014: Opening hours for John Lewis, Asda, PC World, GAME and Argos
- 4 Bill Cosby: Isn’t it obvious why his accusers have stayed silent up until now?
- 5 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Sarah Vine on Jack Monroe being a lesbian mother: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
Black Friday 2014: Opening hours for John Lewis, Asda, PC World, GAME and Argos
Michael Brown shooting: Ten things we know – or know better – now the Ferguson grand jury's work is over
Ferguson riots: The most powerful images to emerge from protests over Michael Brown killing
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Exclusive: UK approved £7m Israeli arms sales in six months before Gaza conflict
£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...
£40000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C+...
£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Systems Manager ...
£25000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, VC-funded star...