The long and short of what makes a leader

Why are people with a particular kind of face trusted in insecure times?

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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'