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Judgments of Height From Faces are Informed by Dominance and Facial Maturity

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1521/soco.2013.31.6.672

People who occupy a larger physical space tend to occupy more social space as well. In five studies, the authors investigated how people estimate targets' physical height when provided with facial portraits. In Studies 1a and 1b, participants' estimates of height from targets' faces were significantly correlated with targets' actual height. Because dominance, facial maturity, and facial-width-to-height ratio (FWHR) are all relevant to individuals' perceived “social size,” in Studies 2a and 2b participants judged dominance, facial maturity, warmth, and height. The association between actual and perceived height was partially mediated by dominance and facial maturity, but not warmth or FWHR. In Study 3, measurements of chin area—an aspect of facial maturity—also mediated the actual-perceived height association. People may therefore draw upon the most relevant aspects of “social size” to extrapolate physical size, assuming that those who are more dominant or mature are physically larger—an inference that may cause them to be ascribed higher status.