Head Tilt Can Assert Dominance

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Zachary Witkower University of British Columbia PhD Student

Zachary Witkower

Zachary Witkower
University of British Columbia
PhD Student  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: When we form judgments about other people –what their personality is like, or how they are feeling at the moment– we tend to focus our attention towards their face. This is not surprising, as facial shape and facial expressions contain all kinds of information that can be used to inform judgments.

However, faces are almost never viewed in isolation. Instead, faces are almost always viewed as they rest upon the face’s physical foundation: the head. Yet little is known about how head position might influence judgments about personality or social status, or – importantly – how head position might change the way faces are perceived. In the present research, we examined how and why head position might influence social judgments made from the face. 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: In eight studies, we show that tilting one’s head downward systematically changes the way the face is perceived, such that a neutral face –that is, a face with no muscle movement or facial expression—appears to be more dominant when the head is tilted down. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this effect is caused by changing the appearance of the face: tilting one’s head downward causes the eyebrows to lower and take on an apparent V-shape, and the resulting V-shaped eyebrows are perceived as more dominant. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: Similar to the ways in which a facial expression can influence perceptions by changing the appearance of the face, head movement can also influence perceptions by changing the appearance of the face. As a result, supposedly “neutral” faces may be less inexpressive than they are often assumed to be.

Citation:

Zachary Witkower, Jessica L. Tracy. A Facial-Action Imposter: How Head Tilt Influences Perceptions of Dominance From a Neutral Face. Psychological Science, 2019; 30 (6): 893 DOI: 10.1177/0956797619838762 

 

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