Facial Structure: How We Process A New Face

Facial Structure: How We Process A New Face

Your face is your calling card. It is the first responder to everything and anything that comes within your direct path. Now, science has shown that the mere structure of your face may actually determine how you might react when it comes to life situations such as career drive, sexual behavior, and even criminal intent. New and past studies confirm the differences in facial structure and what it might say about you before you even attempt to utter a word

It is called physiognomy, Greek for physics meaning “nature” and gnomon meaning “judge”. This is the science of determining a person’s outer appearance as connected to their personality and/or character, particularly from facial composition alone. This was mainly determined in male subjects.

Learn what faces to look for and how some may be an indication of a person you may, or may not, want to associate with

Ratio Comparison and Instincts

Studies of face characteristics focused on what is determined to be high and low facial width to height ratios (fWHR). The fWHR is the width of the face divided by the height of the upper face. It is theorized that because humans are such visual creatures, there may be a pre-wired, subconscious detection technique we all have when it comes to deciding whether we are amongst a friend or foe.

Upon meeting a new face, your visual system becomes highly sensitive to tapping into a quick process of deciphering identity, gender, age, and emotional expression. From there your social interaction would takeover and you would have two choices: follow your instincts and act accordingly or ignore your instincts and maintain social norms. In either case you may still feel your “gut instinct” later and realize that you very much liked that new face or, for some reason, did not like it, sometimes to the degree of untrusting or even fearing that person. According to physiognomy, your instincts are usually right.

Shorter, Wider Faces

IFL Science reported that according to a comparison of a combination of physiognomy studies,

“We found that men who had shorter, wider faces behaved in a more threatening manner across a number of different behaviors. They were more aggressive, more prejudiced and more likely to deceive others. These effects were not observed in women. But we did find that both men and women with relatively larger ratios were more dominant than men and women with relatively smaller ratios. For example, people with larger width-to-height ratios agreed more with statements like “I often try to get my own way regardless of what others may want.”

The Testosterone Effect

It was also found that in men, larger facial width-to-height ratios had higher levels of testosterone, the major hormone linked to dominance seeking behavior

In a study of the fWHR of US presidents by researchers at the Sage Centre for the Study of the Mind, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of California along with two UK Universities, it was found that,

“The current findings relate facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) to achievement drive in a sample of exceptional political figures: former US presidents. The findings refine and extend recent work indicating fWHR is a morphological marker of dominance-seeking.”

In another study by Canadian researchers titled, ‘The Facial Width-to-Height Ratio Predicts Sex Drive, Sociosexuality, and Intended Infidelity’ published in Archives of Sexual Behavior (7/18), it was stated that,

“In Study 1, a sample of 145 undergraduate students revealed that FWHR positively predicted sex drive…Study 2 a sample of 314 students demonstrated links between the FWHR and sex drive (also in both men and women), as well as sociosexuality and intended infidelity (men only). These results suggest that FWHR may be an important morphological index of human sexuality.”

Wired Response

Maybe nature has wired us, particularly women, to recognize these alleged predictable behavioral responses according to the anatomical structure of person’s face, primarily men. A study of how criminals were sentenced strongly corroborated with fWHR

The study, ‘Facial Trustworthiness Predicts Extreme Criminal-Sentencing Outcomes’, published in Psychological Science (6/10/15) by researchers from the University of Toronto stated that,

“These results highlight the power of facial appearance to prejudice perceivers and affect life outcomes even to the point of execution, which suggests an alarming bias in the criminal-justice system.”

The theory here, according to IFL Science, is that people are naturally wired to deduct safety or danger simply by assessing a face. A face, our calling card if you will, immediately displays alleged ethnicity, gender and approximate age, however, in addition to the obvious, people rapidly process the width-to-height ratio, even in bearded men

“These findings suggest that the facial width-to-height ratio, and sensitivity to it, may be part of an evolved cuing system in that emerged long ago in our evolutionary past.”

In more startling terms, according to the University of Toronto study, among 742 convicted murderers in Florida, murderers with shorter, wider faces were more likely to be sentenced to death than murderers with longer, narrower faces.

No Need To Point The Finger

Understanding this alleged, primitive, pre-conception that may have been “coded” into our DNA is understanding another survival mechanism nature gave us. Chances are that someone with a short wide face, particularly a male, is not going to harm you. Yet, there could be an underlying personality aggressiveness or “alpha” mentality to keep a lookout for. This can be advantageous in many aspects of civilized living such as business, sports, or politics. It is simply a way to decipher or moreover, profile someone for a calculated, cerebral, self-preservation rather than all-out judgement which can lead to tribalism or worse yet, racism, misogyny, etc


Being aware of facial structure and personality response is yet another way you can observe your surroundings as well as know what a facial structure may say about you or others. The more that science unfolds these “primitive wirings” the more we can rise above ignorance and understand the human plight that much more.