The researchers gave University of St Andrews students money to play a game in groups where they could either benefit themselves and free-ride on the cooperation of others or they could risk their money to benefit their group. Half of the students were told that the outcomes of the game would be compared between St Andrews students, the other half that they would be compared with a rival university. The prediction was that the wider faced men would respond to the rivalry in the second condition and sacrifice their money for their own group.Related links between wide faces and aggression, trustworthiness, company performance and unethical behavior.
The results of the study confirmed their hypotheses and turned the typical associations with facial width on their head: the more robust looking, wider faced men in the study were more self-sacrificing than other men.
"It was surprising that our predictions were confirmed," reports Dr. Stirrat. "When we mentioned Edinburgh University, our St Andrews participants with wider faces were more cooperative than the other men. When we didn't mention the rivalry, they were less cooperative than other men."
Psychological Science doi: 10.1177/0956797611435133
Face Structure Predicts Cooperation Men With Wider Faces Are More Generous to Their In-Group When Out-Group Competition Is Salient
M. Stirrat and D. I. Perrett
Male facial width-to-height ratio appears to correlate with antisocial tendencies, such as aggression, exploitation, cheating, and deception. We present evidence that male facial width-to-height ratio is also associated with a stereotypically male prosocial tendency: to increase cooperation with other in-group members during intergroup competition. We found that men who had wider faces, compared with men who had narrower faces, showed more self-sacrificing cooperation to help their group members when there was competition with another group. We propose that this finding makes sense given the evolutionary functions of social helpfulness and aggression.