A square jaw, strong brow, thin lips and a broader nose are seen as signs of talent and competence, a new study has found.
The features, associated with increased levels of the male hormone testosterone, are seen as assertive and markers of virility indicative of professional prowess.
Members of the public were asked to rate images on a range of criteria, with men scoring more highly for competence than women.
Experts say their study highlights the prejudice ingrained in society that women face on a daily basis.
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Increased levels of testosterone – the male hormone – creates a square jaw, strong brow, thin lips and a broader nose. All of these features are seen as assertive and markers of virility
First author Dr DongWon Oh, from Princeton University, said: ‘Our research sheds light on the pernicious gender bias in how we perceive others.
‘We judge masculine looking people as competent – a judgement that can affect our leadership choices.’
High levels of testosterone lead to the ultra-masculine look of George Clooney or Idris Elba, whereas less of the hormone produces the softer features of Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt.
Increased testosterone levels was found to be directly correlated with perceived competence in men.
However, the same trait in women created a view that they were ‘inefficient’.
Dr Oh said this is important as it affects who we choose to lead us and how we see them.
For example, previous studies have shown individuals with rugged jawlines are more likely to become high-ranking politicians or heads of large companies.
But Dr Oh said: ‘Problematically, how competent someone appears does not guarantee their actual competence.
‘Needless to say these gender biases pose a threat to social justice – creating unfair environments for everyone.’
Members of the general public were asked to rate images of people based on competence and found that people rated someone as more competent if they were male and less competent ones as female
WHAT IS TESTOSTERONE?
Testosterone is the male sex hormone and is mostly made in the testicles, but also in adrenal glands, which are near the kidneys.
It causes the voice to deepen, body hair to grow and the genitals to become larger during puberty.
As well as affecting sex drive and sperm production, it also plays a role in developing strong bones and muscles, and how the body distributes fat.
Women also create small amounts of the hormone in the ovaries and adrenal glands, and it affects their fertility and bones and muscles.
Testosterone levels which are too high or too low can cause various problems.
Low testosterone in men can cause erection problems, low sex drive, infertility, weakened muscles and bones, body fat gain and hair loss.
Too much testosterone, however, can trigger puberty in boys under the age of nine, is linked to aggression, and can increase the risk of prostate problems, including cancer.
Male testosterone levels tend to be highest when he is around 20 years old, and decline naturally with age.
Source: Medical News Today
Dr Oh and colleagues assessed the ‘visual ingredients’ that influence how people view another person’s talent level on appearance alone.
Participants in a study were asked to rate a variety of different faces on how competent they thought the person was based on appearance alone.
By collecting and breaking down all the data they were then able to identify the features which were most heavily associated with competence.
They then built a computer model that allowed them to digitally alter faces based on these specific guidelines.
One experiment involving 33 participants found faces designed to look more efficient were rated as such – and as more attractive.
Dr Oh, of Princeton University in New Jersey, said: ‘Using the computational methods we developed for visualising appearance stereotypes, we can literally remove the attractiveness of the competent-looking faces.
‘We can then test whether ‘competent’ faces still appear competent and inspect what visual properties other than attractiveness drive the competence impressions.’
Scientists have found that first impressions can have a profound impact on how we see someone as masculine faces are viewed as more competent. Researchers say the study also highlights the prejudice ingrained in society that women face on a daily basis
High levels of testosterone lead to the ultra-masculine look of George Clooney or Idris Elba (pictured) and less produces the softer look of Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt
Another online test revealed a clear gender bias. When asked to identify the gender of faces participants tended to rate more competent looking ones as male.
Finally the researchers manipulated ‘photo-realistic’ images of male and female faces so they varied in masculinity and got 250 participants to rate their competence online.
Again, the data suggested a gender bias in first impressions. As male faces increased in masculinity, so did their perceived competence.
For female faces this relationship only held up to a point – after which more masculine female faces were actually perceived as less competent.
Dr Oh and colleagues hope to expand on the study published in Psychological Science by exploring the origins of this gender bias and how it could be combated.
They are also investigating whether there are systematic differences in the impressions we have of male and female faces.