The online magazine www.plosone.org published in January 23rd / Volume 8 / Edition 1 / e52317 an article called ‘The lack of support in the association between facial structure and agression: Reassessment based in a global genetic perspective’, which was a hot topic in many media. This study made headlines like: ‘ ‘The face does not predict people’s skills and behavior”.
They spent a lot of resources in this sudy (at least in hours) because 4.690 people from 94 different locations and many researchers from a variety of countries took part in it.
The study was build on Gall’s theories and Lombroso’s observations, who said that faces with bigger structures had more aggressiveness, thus bigger posibilities to commit aggressive crimes.
Their study consisted in measuring the width and height of the face (fWHR) and making an interindividual comparison, whithout taking interindividual comparison’s measurement parameters into account. Furthermore, they measured just the quantitative, like most of the sudies about humans.
Firstly, we would like to say that we agree on the fact that wide faces are not distinctive of aggressiveness per se. In our argot we call them ‘dilated faces’. In its ‘pure’ state the energy supply is high, there is more openess to others, an easy family and social insertion, an attachment to the concrete and tangile world, etc., not very common characteristics of the aggressiveness that the study denies. It is the psychological age of the kid, open, receptive, not aggressive. In this sense, we would agree with the study: wider faces are not the most aggressive ones.
On the other hand, we have to highlight that they did not take into account certain variables that are essential to undesrtand faces in an integrated and holistic way. Instead, they focused in a particular element and they forgot about the rest. Down below, I describe the variables they obviated and lead to a wrong headline: ‘The face does not predict people’s skills and behavior’:
1. A decisive factor is missing: what we call energetic tone, that polarizes the nervous system (activity-receptivity). Activity and aggessiveness, or bigger volume of testosterone, have been found in lean faces. In wider faces, even more if they are adipose, in which the muscular lassitude is bigger, they found very low levels of testosterone and more levels of estrogen. As a result, their aggressiveness is very low, sperm cells are less active and there is a lower reproductive capacity (if we talk about a man’s face). This variable (energetic tone), which is unmeasurable nowadays, is the most important to predict the reproductive capacity, the volume of testosterone that a every body handles and algo, its aggressiveness.
2. Another variable, not less important, that they did not take into account is the aerodynamic or the verticality of the side-viewed face (look at El Rostro y la Personalidad, 4th Edition, pages 108, 109, 110 and 111), parameters where we find the impulsivity or control capacity.
3. Another variable that they missed is the symmetry-asymmetry of the face, very important element to see people’s clycothymic aspects, which must be valued depending on the global width of the face, the muscular tonicity and the grade of control capacity. When the asymmetry is notable and the previous parameters are not good, the subject can topple, which would drive them to commit aggressive acts.
In view of the lack of these very important elements to understand the human face, the conclusions of this study are very partial because they forgot elementes that are too important when it comes to evaluate the aggressiveness or the the reproductive capacity through the face. It is rather sad that so many researchers spent so much time and resources trying something that Gall and Lombroso already did and could not make, taking into account just one parameter. Besides, the headlines are unfortunate because they exclude a whole knowledge with an only measurement in mind.
At the Instituto Superior de Morfopsicologia we are doing research and building the science we call Structural Integrative Psychology, that discerns the relationship between brain, face and behavior.
Doctor in Psychology
Gómez-Valdés, J., Hünemeier, T., Quinto-Sánchez, M., Paschetta, C., de Azevedo, S., et al (2013). Lack of Support for the Association between Facial Shape and Aggression: A Reappraisal Based on a Worldwide Population Genetics Perspective. Plos ONE 8(1): e52317. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052317