Having a baby face benefits black CEOs, says a new study from researchers at Northwestern University. Not only are black CEOs more baby faced than white ones, they are also judged to be warmer. Furthermore, baby faced black CEOs tend to lead more prestigious firms and make more money than mature-faced ones. Researchers suggested that a baby face is disarming and lessens the impact of stereotypical perceptions that blacks are threatening.
The research builds upon earlier work (Rule and Ambady, 2009; Zebrowtiz and Montepare, 2005) that showed having a baby face could be a liability for people seeking high leadership positions in government or private industry. Those studies looked exclusively at White males. The current study looked to examine whether these results would apply to, or differ in the case of, other social groups, particularly, black men.
The results showed that having a baby face benefitted black men in CEO positions compared to black men who were more mature faced in terms of both earning higher compensation and leading more prestigious companies. And although Black male CEOs with baby faces were perceived as being warmer than their white counterparts, they were also perceived as being less competent.
The implications of these findings are noteworthy for Black men aspiring to leadership positions in American corporations. As the researchers point out, White males often display competent leadership by employing angry and authoritative leadership styles (expressing anger, banging on tables, aggressively dressing down employees, etc…) High-ranking Black male leaders may not have this same luxury, having to resort to a more moderate and constrained style of leadership.
How much can we really know about a person just by a quick glance at their face? Quite a bit, recent research suggests, showing we are able to accurate assess others’ personality traits, their likelihood of cheating on an economic game or how much they like children ( if they’re men) just by looking at pictures of their faces. And the list is getting longer.
A recent paper in Psych Science showed that facial structure is a reliable cue for revealing aggressive tendencies in men. The study had participants look at pictures of male faces and rate them for aggression (the men pictured had previously engaged in a task that measured their tendency to behave aggressively).* Both the participants ratings and the men’s facial width to height ratios significantly predicted aggressive behavior. And mama always told me not to judge a book by its cover. Might have to start rethinking that bit of advice.
*Aggression ratings were positively correlated with masculinity and dominance, and negatively correlated with trustworthiness and attractiveness.
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