Masculine faces seen as more competent than female ones

Gender bias can affect how we choose world leaders

Olivia Petter
Monday 10 December 2018 12:17
Masculine faces seen as more competitive than female ones

People with masculine faces are perceived to be more competent than those with feminine features, which could adversely affect our choice of world leaders, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Psychological Science, the study examined the “visual ingredients” of a person’s appearance that could convince others of their capability to be efficient and/or successful.

Researchers at Princeton University used data from previous studies, where participants had rated a variety of different faces on how competent they thought the person was based on appearance alone.

By presenting these same faces to 33 volunteers as part of a new online experiment, and asking them to identify them as either male or female, the study’s authors identified a clear gender bias: people rated the more competent faces as male and the less competent ones as female.

They also found that the competent faces were generally perceived as being more confident and “masculine”.

In a second experiment, the researchers manipulated photorealistic images of male and female faces so that they appeared more masculine and asked 250 online volunteers to rate how competent they thought these people might be based on appearance.

It transpired that the most masculine faces were also viewed as the most competent.

The study’s authors have said the findings are significant because they reveal how gender bias may cloud our judgement when it comes to choosing world leaders.

“Problematically, how competent someone appears does not guarantee their actual competence,” lead author DongWon Oh said.

“Needless to say, these gender biases pose a threat to social justice, creating unfair environments for everyone.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in