We've spent so much time talking about the intimate details that others can detect merely by looking at you that you've probably swapped out your regular wardrobe for Hefty bags cinched with rope to retain some semblance of privacy. Well, don't forget to cover your head [Disclaimer: Do not put garbage bags on your head], because it turns out that allowing someone even the briefest glimpse at your face could tell them all about ...
If determining another person's sexual intentions were easy, humanity would never have invented vodka. It seems like when you're looking for a long-term relationship, your skirt suddenly has more hands up it than the day it left the sweatshop. Or when you're just looking for someone to play a quick game of Flops and Slobbers, you find the girl who's been collecting wedding catalogs since she was 12. Wouldn't it be so much simpler if you could tell the difference at a single glance?
Well, according to science, the type of sexual engagement you prefer is in fact written all over your face, and there's nothing short of extensive plastic surgery you can do to hide it.
"I'm going for the 'committed but complicated' look."
In a study published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, researchers at Durham University asked 700 men and women what they were looking for in a relationship -- nuptials or bestials. Then they showed them photos of the other participants and asked them to rate their sexual attitudes. Seventy-two percent of the time, a single glance at another participant's face was all it took to correctly rate their tendency to slip away while the sheets are still conveniently slippery.
Want to test this yourself? Simply take a look in the mirror. Guys: If you have a wide face, a square jaw, and small eyes, then you're more likely to keep your intimate relationships on the casual side. Gals: If you have wide doe eyes and larger lips, then you're more likely to order your sausage to go, if you catch our drift. The dark evolutionary implication here is that men who look more conventionally masculine tend to fire their seed around like some kind of crotch-mounted Gatling gun, while attractive females are pre-programmed to treat their nether bits like a dive bar dartboard.
And like darts, it gets really confusing playing with three or more.
In a study conducted at Tufts University, researchers gathered up a plethora of male headshots from personals ads and flashed them at a group of undergraduates. With exposures as brief as 50 milliseconds, participants were still able to judge a male's sexual preferences with accuracy greater than could be attributed to chance. In case your brain doesn't run in CPU cycles, 50 milliseconds is 1/20th of a second. That's barely enough time to register that what you're looking at is a face, let alone reach a conclusion regarding what type of genitalia that face enjoys all up in it.
"That's a teabagging nose if I ever saw one."
And it's not only the guys. Tufts followed up with a similar study involving female faces, and found that participants were able to tell if a woman was gay or straight in even less time than it took for the fellas -- 40 milliseconds, to be annoyingly precise -- and were likely to make an accurate judgment even when all they saw was a woman's eyes.
So how is this even possible? One study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior attempted to answer this question by studying the facial structures of gay folk versus straight folk, and they found some marked differences. Lesbian women had more turned-up noses (as did straight men), and gay men had more convex cheeks and shorter noses (as did straight women), to name a few. Given the rapidity demonstrated by the prior studies, it seems that our brains are more efficient at assembling this facial puzzle when our minds stay out of the goddamned way. Or in other words, we should put more faith in our guts when it comes to butts.
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Ever looked at the top dogs of successful companies and wondered if the Illuminati has a stuffy old white guy cloning facility that cranks those suckers out? The answer is: Maybe!
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee ran photographs of 55 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies through their fancy face scanners, comparing their facial ratios against their companies' performances. Those with wider faces -- the CEOs of General Electric and Southwest Airlines, for example -- were more likely to lead the stronger-performing companies. On the other end of the spectrum were those like droopy-faced Dick Fuld, CEO of the shittier-performing Lehman Brothers. Of course, that could also have something to do with the fact that his name is Dick Fuld.
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His parents knew what they were doing.
In a true chicken/egg twist, it's unclear whether the "CEO look" comes as a side-effect of having above-average leadership skills, or if we're making these guys our leaders specifically because of their look. In a study published in Leadership Quarterly, British participants were able to consistently identify unfamiliar, U.S.-based military and business leaders from nothing more than a series of cutout faces, leading Dr. Dawn Eubanks of Warwick Business School to posit that, "leaders are being selected, at least partly, according to how they look."
In a Tufts University study, psychologists had participants study the photographs of Senate candidates and hazard a guess as to their political party based solely on their cropped-out faces (to rule out predictions being swayed by a candidate wearing a blaring orange Confederate Flag suit, for example). Participants were able to consistently and accurately distinguish between Democrats and Republicans, even though well under a third of the candidates had elephant/donkey facial tattoos. And this wasn't limited to politicians; when repeating the study with photographs of college seniors in place of senators, participants were no less able to discern the subjects' party affiliations, identifying the Democrats as "warmer" and the Republicans as "more powerful."
Oh, did we mention that the majority of candidates in the studies above were men? Because when it comes to female candidates, it's a whole different story: "Female politicians with stereotypically feminine facial features are more likely to be Republican than Democrat." Which means that, you guessed it, female politicians with less, um, feminine features tend to be Democrats. Researchers dubbed this the "Michele Bachmann Effect."
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Narrowly losing to the "Deer In Caught In Your Headlights Effect".
Presumably because the "Nancy Pelosi Effect" would've been too bitchy.
A study conducted at Charles University in Prague compared the relationship between measured intelligence and perceived intelligence by showing participants static facial photographs of 40 men and 40 women who had previously been subjected to IQ testing. Participants were able to accurately point out the more intelligent men thanks to faces that the researchers later determined were "rather prolonged with a broader distance between the eyes, a larger nose, a slight upturn to the corners of the mouth, and a sharper, pointing, less rounded chin." The dunces of the group, by contrast, had "broader, more rounded faces with eyes closer to each other, a shorter nose, declining corners of the mouth, and a rounded and massive chin." Those guys shouldn't fret, though -- we're sure they have bright futures as CEOs.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Yup, pretty much nailed it.
But what about the women subjects, you ask? That's where it really gets interesting. See, while female study participants were as accurate as their male counterparts when pointing out the male poindexters, the scientists found absolutely no correlation between perceived intelligence and actual IQ in the female test subjects, possibly because the women were smarter than the men by default.
The researchers didn't postulate that last bit; we just know what's fucking good for us.
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