Looking like a leader: facial shape predicts perceived height and leadership ability

Daniel Edward Re, David William Hunter, Vinet Coetzee, Bernard P. Tiddeman, Dengke Xiao, Lisa M. DeBruine, Benedict C. Jones, David Ian Perrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)
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Judgments of leadership ability from face images predict the outcomes of actual political elections and are correlated with leadership success in the corporate world. The specific facial cues that people use to judge leadership remain unclear, however. Physical height is also associated with political and organizational success, raising the possibility that facial cues of height contribute to leadership perceptions. Consequently, we assessed whether cues to height exist in the face and, if so, whether they are associated with perception of leadership ability. We found that facial cues to perceived height had a strong relationship with perceived leadership ability. Furthermore, when allowed to manually manipulate faces, participants increased facial cues associated with perceived height in order to maximize leadership perception. A morphometric analysis of face shape revealed that structural facial masculinity was not responsible for the relationship between perceived height and perceived leadership ability. Given the prominence of facial appearance in making social judgments, facial cues to perceived height may have a significant influence on leadership selection.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere80957
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2013


  • Leadership
  • Face shape
  • Height perception
  • Social judgement
  • Facial cues


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