Men with shorter, wider faces are more likely to have higher sex drives and cheat on their partners according to two studies from evolutionary psychologist Steven Arnocky recently published in Archives of Sexual Behavior.
The first study measured the facial width-to-height ratio of college students in relation to sex drive — e.g., how often they experienced sexual desire and orgasm and how often they masturbated — and found that a wider, shorter face correlated with increased libido. The second study replicated these findings, but also found that increased facial width-to-height ratio correlates with intended infidelity in men.
I recently spoke with Armocky about why short, wide faces signify alpha maledom; what the implications are (e.g., Trump’s facial-width-to-height-ratio is higher than normal); and if, like corporate men demanding “Forbes facelifts” in pursuit of stronger chins, alpha males striving for peak masculinity will begin asking plastic surgeons for the Sly Stallone look.
What drew you to this subject?
I study evolutionary psychology — i.e., evolved characteristics and sex differences. It all comes down to mating, since sexual reproduction determines which genes are passed on.
Define facial width-to-height ratio.
It’s the bizygomatic width of the face. To find it, divide the distance between your left and right temple by the distance between your upper lip and your eyebrow.
Who’s someone with a high facial width-to-height ratio?
Tie Domi, who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has a very masculinized-looking face.
Why do you care about this ratio from an evolutionary perspective?
Facial width-to-height ratio has been correlated with men’s aggression, unethical behavior, expression of prejudice, psychopathic traits, achievement drive, financial success and attractiveness as a short-term sexual partner.
Is that how you formulated your hypothesis that people with wider, shorter faces would be more open to casual sex and infidelity?
Yes, we wanted to see if we could demonstrate that, on average, men and women with shorter, wider faces were more sexually motivated, meaning they have higher libidos.
Does that mean Tie Domi is more likely to cheat on his wife?
No. You can’t look at any one individual person and determine anything from the width of their face, so don’t size up your Tinder date that way. Recent articles about this study have used headlines like, “If Men Have This Facial Feature, They’re More Likely to Cheat.” That’s inaccurate. There’s so much going on besides sex hormones — cultural, social and environmental factors — that influence sexual behavior. You could, for example, have a person with a very high facial-width-to-height ratio but a low sex drive for whatever reason. It’s only when you look at averages over hundreds of participants that you see the relationship.
But on average, people who look like Tie Domi are more likely to cheat.
What surprised you the most in your study?
That facial width-to-height maps onto intended infidelity. That said, we didn’t look at actual sexual behavior, so that’s something I’m excited about for future research: How many times have you actually cheated on your partner? How many partners have you cheated on? Similarly, our sample was mostly Caucasian. Facial width-to-height varies across cultures, as does sex drive and infidelity. So it’ll be interesting to see if these findings are different or if they will hold when studying different cultures.
I read that women viewed men with a high facial width-to-height ratio as more dominant and having more romantic potential. Is that true?
That was the finding of a 2014 study, but only concerning short-term relationships. When women are looking for short-term partners, we know they’re more interested in physical attractiveness and masculinized genes. Long-term mate preferences tend to shift to things like kindness, resources and commitment to the relationship.
Would a beard help make your face look wider?
There’s some literature on beards being found attractive by women, which is related to testosterone, but it also could involve the face being wider.
More men are having chin implants to be competitive in the workplace. Since increased facial width-to-height ratio is now a proven signifier of being an alpha male, should be expect there to be an increase in men seeking to achieve this artificially?
Guys are already doing it…