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EASP 2017 - Facial dominance and power


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For a symposium at European Association for Social Psychology conference 2017. Topics discussed include theoretical problems with measuring and defining "dominance," the long evolutionary history of lobsters and the serotonergic system, including parallels with UFC fighters, predicting elections with unfortunate accuracy, a model of leadership as an internal regulatory variable, methods for investigating the effects of facial masculinity on voting preferences, and the results of preliminary work in this area.

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EASP 2017 - Facial dominance and power

  1. 1. FACIAL DOMINANCE, POWER &Allen Grabo - EASP 2017
  2. 2. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND -WHAT IS DOMINANCE? Traditionally inferred from an animals’ overt behavior • Sequences of dominance interactions allow observers to map the dominance structure of a group May include: • Physical attacks • Threats and signals of submission • Displacement at a feeding site Typically such interactions have a clear ‘winner’ and ‘loser’
  3. 3. EVOLUTIONARY HISTORY Clawed lobsters: Cretaceous (~140 million years Conor McGregor: Born 14 July, 1988Serotonin: ? Predates the development of neurotransmission
  4. 4. “WINNER AND LOSER” MODELS The problem with only observing wins and losses is that: • Winner effects alone lead to a strict linear hierarchy • Loser effects alone lead to a despotic outcome Without information about opponent, ESS depends on costs of persisting - until lowest RHP loses. Ouch.
  5. 5. CONTEXT, CUES AND HEURISTICS Cumulative Assessment Model (Payne, 1998): • Costs are also imposed by the actions of their opponents, decision to persist or flee depends on sum of others’ actions • Over time individuals learn to avoid engaging, or to escalate In other words…heuristics: • Paying attention to fitness-relevant information about others • Influenced by contextual factors and physical cues ELT: Leadership and followership depend on such
  6. 6. HEURISTICS IN THE VOTING BOOTH “The idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal — that you can gather votes like box tops — is, I think, the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.” ~Adlai Stevenson
  7. 7. EVOLUTION & LEADERSHIP How did leadership and followership evolve? •Began with pairs of foraging hunter-gatherers (in EEA) •Lead to dominance hierarchies (with agriculture?) •Checked by development of egalitarian norms (“civilization”) •Resulted in the kinds of formalized leadership we see today
  8. 8. EVOLUTION & LEADERSHIP Why is it adaptive? • Provides access to greater resources • Allows for migration to new environments • Maintains a stable social environment • Regulates intergroup relations
  9. 9. FACIAL CUES AND LEADERSHIP (VAN VUGT & GRABO, 2016) Leader Attribute Facial Cues Adaptive Domains Follower Heuristic Example Dominance Masculinity Conflict, War Follow dominant individual, Military Height to Width Ratio CEO Trustworthiness Femininity Cooperation, Peace Follow prosocial individual Politician Ethnicity NGO Competence Symmetry / FA Knowledge Follow informed individual Entrepreneur Attractiveness, Health Skin Coloration Disease / Pathogen Avoidance Follow attractive / healthy individual Explorer
  10. 10. THE “LEADER INDEX” Signals Leader Index Reputation / Prestige Coordination challenge Followership Investment Leadership Potential Successful Coordination Cues Inferential Attributional Internal Regulatory Variable Contextual Triggers Searching
  11. 11. FACIAL DOMINANCE AS A CUE • One of the best predictors is facial masculinity (Todorov et al., 2015; Re & Rule, 2017). • More masculine faces (squared face, strong jaw lines, pronounced eye brows, thin eyes and lips) are judged as more dominant. • Dominant-looking individuals are more likely to be judged as leaders (Spisak et al, 2012). • Physical strength (Blaker & Van Vugt, 2014) would have been a reliable indicator of one’s ability to resolve such conflicts (as it is in nonhuman primates).
  12. 12. SUPPORTING EVIDENCE • Faces of soldiers rated more dominant than politicians and businessmen (Mazur et al., 1984) • Cadets with a more dominant-looking face climb attain a higher future rank (Mueller & Mazur, 1996) • Masculine faces favored when people were asked to vote for a war-time leader (Little et al., 2007) • Replicated using both morphed faces (Spisak, Homan et al., 2012) and real faces in Western and non-Western samples (Spisak, Dekker et
  14. 14. MANIPULATING DOMINANCE TORODOV ET AL, 2010 Untrustworth Trustworthy
  20. 20. A CHALLENGE
  21. 21. TESTING IN THE “REAL WORLD” Theoretical Background: Previous research has found that more masculine- looking leaders are preferred in contexts of intergroup competition, while feminine-looking leaders are preferred for intragroup cooperation. However, there are still several questions regarding the generalizability of these results which we believe could provide further support for this theory: • Selection of leader candidates • External Validity • Hypothetical Scenarios • Followership Investment
  22. 22. HYPOTHESIS We sought to address these issues by testing whether participants would prefer masculinized or feminized versions of the actual candidates in the 2016 US Presidential Elections. H1: Consistent with the Evolutionary Contingency Hypothesis, we predicted that followers who perceive a match between the context (war or peace) and a leader candidate’s physical cues (masculinized or feminized faces) will rate them more positively on both personality attributes and leadership ability.
  23. 23. DESIGN Participants. 298 Americans (183 males, 115 females; Mage=33.98) Scenarios. Randomly assigned to either the war or peace condition. Faces. Shown masculinized or feminized photos of the candidates currently running for President Ratings. Underneath each face participants were asked to indicate, on a 7-point Likert-type scale, how strongly they would agree with the following descriptions of the person's personality: Trustworthy, Warm, Competent, Attractive, Dominant, and Charismatic. Finally, they were asked to assess their leadership
  24. 24. RESULTS - PERSONALITY RATINGS Attribute Condition N MDiff SE F P Trustworthy Peace 140 -1.76 .88 War 158 1.43 .83 6.94 <.01 Warm Peace 140 -2.10 .87 War 158 1.42 .82 8.64 <.01 Competent Peace 140 -1.90 .847 War 158 1.48 .797 8.45 <.01 Dominant Peace 140 -1.54 .85 War 158 1.24 .80 5.60 .02 Charismatic Peace 140 -2.04 .86 War 158 1.40 .81 8.47 <.01 Leadership Potential Peace 140 .77 1.08 War 158 3.36 1.01 3.083 .04 Figure 1 – Estimated marginal mean differences in personality attributions between war and peace conditions. Negative values indicate a preference for the feminized version, positive values
  25. 25. RESULTS - COMBINED •Participants evaluated feminized faces more positively in the peace condition (M=-1.87, SD=9.54) but gave higher ratings to masculinized faces in the war condition (M=1.40, SD=10.30; F[1,298]=7.97, p<.01, η²=.03). •We find the same interaction effect in ratings of leadership potential between feminized versions in the peace condition (M=.77, SD=12.94) and masculinized faces in the war condition (M=3.36, SD=12.53; F[1,298]=3.09, p=.04, η²=.01). •However, the positive numbers for both results indicate that participants preferred the masculinized versions overall.
  26. 26. …AND THE WINNER IS