psychology (2)

Colonels and Generals have facially dominant features.


Few individuals would be surprised to find out that
models are better looking than the average
individual in the population. Inthis case, this
is expected in that the defining feature of being
amodel is to be good-looking. Are there other
professions wherein yourlooks might affect your
career success? How about the military? Might
it be the case that our warriors should look
the part?

In 1996, Ulrich Mueller and the biosociologist

Allan Mazur conducted a study to determine

whether dominance-related facial features of

West Point cadets (as displayed in their

yearbooks) might be predictive of their

promotion to the most senior military ranks.

Independent raters scored the cadets' portraits

on a 1 to 7 scale, ranging from ‘very submissive'

to ‘very dominant'. The median score across all

raters was taken as the "facial" score of a given

portrait. Other variables that were investigated

were athletic ability, cadets' scores on the

General Order of Merit (which captures several

dimensions including scholastic and leadership

abilities), sociability, attendance at a War College

, parents' education, and the military branch that

a cadet ended up serving in.

Several analyses were conducted to gauge the
extent to which each of the latter variables affected
career promotions. One might think that in a
"pure" meritocracy, facial features should not
have any effect on one'sascendancy within the
organization in question. However, to the extent
that valuable information is gleaned from one's
facial morphology(e.g., the level of exposure to
pubertal testosterone)then it might make sense
that such biometrics matter in particularcontexts.
In line with this reasoning, Mueller and Mazur
found that thefacial dominance of the cadets was
operative in predicting more seniormilitary promotions
(i.e., at the level of Colonel and General). Ofcourse
, facial dominance was not the sole predictor of
ascendancy in themilitary ranks. However to the
extent that it had a significanteffect, this strikes
me as a rather interesting finding.

In future posts, I'll be discussing several more studies

that have documented the effects of our morphological

features across a wide range of domains. For those

interested in this area, I cover this matter in greater

detail in chapter 10 of my forthcoming trade book

The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers,

Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About

Human Nature (Prometheus Books, 2011).

Read more…

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