April 25, 2006

A "dominant face" and a "submissive face."

Composite images:

Actually, I'm offended by the whole notion. It reminds me of an exhibit of Nazi propoganda I saw at the Anne Frank House a while back -- pseudo-scientific explanations of why a particular face was "criminal."

But those pictures are from a BBC report of a study done at Liverpool University:
Researchers in the university's School of Biological Sciences showed their subjects, all of whom were in long-term relationships, a series of 66 pictures of two facial types - dominant and submissive.

They were then asked to rate the pictures for dominance, with a dominant person being defined as someone who "appeared as if they could get what they wanted".

Those with partners in the most fertile stage of their menstrual cycle were more able to spot classic masculine face types - ie men with strong jaw lines, thinner lips and smaller eyes.

But those with partners who were not at risk of getting pregnant at that particular time were not.
The study apparently assumed what constitutes a "dominant face" and a "submissive face," and only inquires into whether having a girlfriend who's ovulating heightens a man's perception of male threats. Count me skeptical... and disgusted.


Bruce Hayden said...

I can see skeptical, but why disgusted? Yes, it is ridiculous, but IMHO nothing to get worked up about.

Jacques Cuze said...

The study apparently assumed what constitutes a "dominant face" and a "submissive face,"

No it did no such thing. Have you read the study? There are many ways to critique the study, but your approach just is not valid.

inquires into whether having a girlfriend who's ovulating heightens a man's perception of male threats.

Do you know why they asked men if their girlfriend was ovulating?

Is this the part you are disgusted by? Or is it something else?

Icepick said...

Quxxo, when are you going to post on your blog? Damnit, I'm waiting for content! Post! And open your comments!

Jacques Cuze said...

I uh, forgot my password.

Icepick said...

And I don't understand disgust over this topic. The question is whether or not the research is any good. If it is good, it is an interesting result. Personally I would like to see good research along these lines. LEt's demystify humans and their relationships.

Icepick said...

Quxxo, don't tease me like that. We both now you can't post here unless you know you password. Come one, just post already! I've got you linked up in my blog roll and everything.

Jacques Cuze said...

And I don't understand disgust over this topic. The question is whether or not the research is any good.

Googling: ethics using nazi research

In general it's not quite as simple as the question of whether the research is any good or not, there is the ethical questions of how the research was conducted, leading to a question, even if the research is "good" of whether the ends justify the means.

Typically on this blog, we find that the ends do not justify the means, unless the ends are pro-freedom loving and the means are torture and other civil rights abuses.

Anyway, I forgot the URL.

Icepick said...

Quxxo, I don't think these researchers were actually killing their subjects for the research. There are ethical concerns when doing research, but I don't see how that impacts this study.

As for you idiotic comment on torture and this blog, well it's idiotic. This blog rarely touches on that topic, and I don't recall Ann being pro-torture. Me and Allan Dershowitz, however, sometimes are pro-torture. But Allan don't blog (just like Charlie don't surf), and this isn't my blog. Try again.

VW: lcejix

I think that's "Icepick" in Lithuanian.

Jacques Cuze said...

Well I have become intimidated in my posting in this environment because I am afraid that Ann will start lashing out and deleting my posts willy nilly again, but as one example, I and others have always interpreted this post as a pro-freedom loving ends justify the torture

Ann Althouse said...

I am disgusted by the classification of personality by physiognomy, which I associate with the Nazis. To a lesser extent, I am disgusted with the overeager search for proof that human beings are animals, without higher qualities. If it's true, I want to know, and I respect science. But this sort of research seems too eager to get to that answer.

Zeldazot said...

Human beings aren't animals?

Jacques Cuze said...

I am disgusted by the classification of personality by physiognomy, which I associate with the Nazis.

But that is not at all what this research was about. Not at all. That is clear even from the abstract, you don't even have to read all 14 pages.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: Preventing people from committing suicide through force-feeding? I don't think that IS torture. You would prefer to let them die? The procedure was effective in deterring many other suicide attempts. You would prefer to let all those others kill themselves? Even if you do go the other way from me, it is despicable to accuse me of approving of torture for the position I took. If you don't apologize, sincerely, you should expect to see more of your efforts here deleted.

Ann Althouse said...

Zelzadot: Of course, human beings are animals. My point is that the scientists seem intent on proving the lower animal nature of human beings. Do you seriously think human males can sense when females are ovulating the way male monkeys react to estrus in female monkeys? I don't.

PatCA said...

Sounds like pretty think gruel, academically speaking. Did they rule any other hypotheses besides their partner's hormonal status?

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bissage said...

Time for a levity break: This topic reminded me of a quip by Jean Sheppard. He said that where he grew up, in Holman, Indiana, during the depression, you were either a bully, a toady, or a victim.

Guess they'll need another study for toad faces!

Jacques Cuze said...

Ann, when I apologize, it really is sincere. Now you are forcing me with an intimidating threat to apologize, or else.

Sadly for us both, truly, I don't know how to reconcile your words from that post with not condoning torture.

I understand that you do not consider forcefeeding to be torture. But descriptions from suffragettes, descriptions from doctors, descriptions from members of the falun gong, descriptions from prisoners at gitmo, descriptions from the UN Human Rights Commission all describe it as torture.

As for the comments about how bad it is to have a tube inserted, you need to consider that this treatment -- a medical treatment -- convinced nearly every prisoner to end his hunger strike. The procedure has prevented a tremendous amount of suffering.

The best I can do is say that you are ignorant. Sadly again for us both, when I link to alternative opionions and facts, you delete my posts. But many others in that thread all took the position that force feeding was torture and begged you to reconsider your position. From which I conclude from your behavior that your ignorance is willful.

If your view is so contrary to that of witnesses and experts and your ignorance is willful, how can I conclude anything other than that you condone torture?

So I am left bewildered, firmly believing, regrettably and sadly that you somehow do condone torture, and yet wanting to appease you so that my posts are not arbitrarily deleted.

Jacques Cuze said...

Do you seriously think human males can sense when females are ovulating the way male monkeys react to estrus in female monkeys? I don't.

The human female can detect ovulation in other human females and biologically react to that, why not the human male?

Ann Althouse said...

I love Jean Shepherd. I used to listen to him every night at 10 pm, back in the 60s. I can't think of any artist that has meant so much to me.

Bissage said...

Thank you Ann.

I first learned about his way of looking at the world from his PBS series "Sheppard's Pie." From there it was his books. I never heard his radio work but I read about it. He is sorely missed.

Jacques Cuze said...

Hey, maybe woman can't.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: You didn't answer my question: You would prefer to see them die?

Ann Althouse said...

And don't weasel out of it. You have to say, yes I would let them die.

Jennifer said...

Do you seriously think human males can sense when females are ovulating the way male monkeys react to estrus in female monkeys? I don't.

No! Heck, human females can't always sense when they themselves are ovulating or the rythmn method would be 100% effective.

Aspasia M. said...

But for some reason the mentral period of women roomates often becomes syncronized. (Or the female family members.)

So on some level it sounds like our bodies do know...?

Jacques Cuze said...

And don't weasel out of it. You have to say, yes I would let them die.

Fallacy of the (many) excluded middle(s).

No I don't have to say I would let them die, I am allowed to say, I would give them access to the courts, I would let those that have been imprisoned improperly go, I would treat the others in accordance to the Geneva Conventions, and I would defer to those that are more aware of the ethics of the situation than I:

Here is how Physicians for Human Rights put it:

The Lancet letter reflects an emphatic response by the international medical community against this abusive treatment," said PHR President Holly G. Atkinson, MD, one of the lead signers of the letter. "The infliction of pain and suffering to discourage a hunger strike violates US law and basic principles of human rights." The letter is signed by distinguished medical figures from the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Australia.

The letter also says that the participation of physicians in force-feeding is unethical. "Physicians and other health personnel never should be used as instruments of the government to exert control over detainees through such infliction of pain and suffering," said Dr. Atkinson.

In a letter to one of the Lancet letter signers, Dr. David Nicholl, the former commander of the hospital at Guantánamo, Dr. John Edmondson, said with regard to the force-feeding that he was "justifying [his] actions by deferring to a higher military authority" and not force-feeding but "providing nutritional supplementation on a voluntary basis to detainees who wish to protest their confinement by not taking oral nourishment."

International medical ethics, endorsed by the World Medical Association and the American Medical Association (AMA), require physicians to respect the autonomy of a prisoner or detainee who makes an unimpaired decision to refuse nourishment after being fully informed of the consequences of that decision in consultation with a physician, allowing for adequate and independent medical evaluation and advice. This ethical standard presumes the existence of a confidential and trusting relationship between the health professional and the patient, a relationship made virtually impossible by the history and circumstances of Guantánamo, where detainees have long been subjected to abusive conditions, ill-treatment, indefinite detention, and denial of access to an independent physician and due process.

PHR renews its call on the US government to:

* Permit an independent delegation of qualified physicians to investigate the conditions and circumstances of the hunger strikers in order to help attending military physicians clarify and fulfill their ethical duties to patients who refuse nourishment;
* Assure that any intervention with regard to hunger strikers is consistent with international standards of medical ethics, as endorsed by the AMA, and that no health personnel are compelled to engage in force-feeding. It is imperative that physicians should be allowed to meet privately and confidentially with prisoners to assess the voluntary nature of their strike, as well as to ascertain how and when they have been artificially or force-fed; and
* Take immediate steps to remedy the conditions of confinement that may lead to an informed, unimpaired decision to refuse nourishment, including assurance of due process, prompt release of detainees determined through that process to be inappropriately detained, and humane treatment in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and other US and international law and principles.

So there's no willy-nilly they all just die statement to be found. There is in fact an ethical process that begins with treating these prisoners humanely and in accordance with medical and ethical standards. And yes, if at the end of that process the doctors are okay with allowing prisoners to refuse nutrition, than I am too.

Jennifer said...

geoduck2: I think that's somewhat of an old wives tale. I can't believe I actually followed a quxxo link, but his post above links to the Straight Dope casting some doubt on that theory.

Jacques Cuze said...

You should always follow my links. Invariably I find them informative documentation, and often quite slyly humorous.

I won't lead you astray.

MadisonMan said...

Color me very very skeptical. Only 64 men (random? Who knows?) are polled, and the wording gives you know information on much more likely the partners of menstruaters were to detect what the researchers deem as dominant.

Science by press release. Feh.

I think it's interesting that the submissive face has darker eyes than the dominant face. I wonder how that has been determined. Maybe I'll go get some light blue contact lenses so I look more dominant and scare all the mates of ovulators everywhere!

Jacques Cuze said...

Only 64 men (random? Who knows?)

Read the paper, it's only 14 pages long. (Not random, but not science by press release either.)

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't think it any stranger that, on average, women react more to certain types of men than others, just as I don't think it strange that men are attracted, on average, to certain types of women.

Why should men be attracted to a certain type of woman more than others? To the perfect hourglass figure (I think the optimal ratio is somewhere around 3:2:3 for bust, waist, and hips). Symetric face? etc.

The theory is that it is based on picking a healthy woman with good genes who is capable of bearing children. The more symetric, the better the genes.

Ditto for women picking men. Dominent looking men had better genes, providing for more success in offspring.

I don't think anyone will deny that better looking, bigger, stronger, guys get a lot more dates in high school. And, in today's economy, that makes little sense. If women were truly looking for the guy who would be the best provider, it wouldn't be the muscle bound jock, but rather the straight-A geek. But that geek most likely isn't going to get many dates until college. Indeed, I know women in their 40s who still react very strongly to male size and muscles.

But that is no different than what I hear from HS girls - that the guys are so shallow - meaning that they only are looking at looks and figure at that age.

I don't see anything wrong with the idea that we are all wired with certain built in preferences. They are a result of hundreds of thousands of years of selection.

What is important is understanding these built-in preferences, and realizing that they are, for the most part, obsolete. Smart women don't pick the muscle bound dumb jock, and smart men don't pick the air-head with the perfect body.

What this study (and others I have seen) seem to be saying is that women react more strongly to their hard-wired preferences when closest to being fertile. This doesn't seem unreasonable to me, as studies have shown that at least some women pick different guys to rear their kids than to father them (and, sorry, there are cross-species studies showing this in other "monogamous" species too).

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't think that it is absurd to think that many men in monogamous relationships wouldn't know when their mate was ovulating. I am pretty sure I have known it in a couple of situations throughout my life.

It isn't something blatent, but rather very subtle, and so you have to be well in tune with the woman - so I doubt seriously that other guys would know this.

What is interesting about it is that theoretically, you shouldn't be able to detect it. Hidden ovulation was supposedly bred into women over 100,000+ years so that women could hold on to their men throughout their cycles. If the men didn't know when it was, they would have to stick around all the time just to make sure that they were the fathers of their kids.

In any case, just remember my previous post - biology isn't necessisarily destiny. Both thinking men and women routinely overcome their natural tendencies in mating choices. And, indeed, if some of these studies are accurate, they may provide a service in pointing out where it is advantageous to ignore and overcome natural tendencies.

MadisonMan said...

Read the paper, it's only 14 pages long.

Is it online somewhere? I can't find it at the online version of the Evolution and Human Behavior.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Nucleo said...

Quxxo said: "Fallacy of the (many) excluded middle(s)."

Tell me, what's the middle between life and death? Zombification doesn't count.

Quxxo, why do you always puss out when things start to get interesting? Why do you so fear the consequences of ideas?

Despite your intellectual cowardice you inadvertantly answered the question. You and the doctors - provided the specified criteria were met - would let them die. So fine. It's not a totally outrageous position. Why do you run from it?

And this is just hilarious:

"Now you are forcing me with an intimidating threat to apologize, or else."

And this:

"...and yet wanting to appease you so that my posts are not arbitrarily deleted."

Yikes. I am intimidated. I must appease her. But how? I know! I'll say Ann loves torture!

altoids1306 said...

Hi Ann:

Assuming you actually waded through all that q---o nonsense to read this - I would just like to comment on your statement "I am disgusted by the classification of personality by physiognomy... I am disgusted with the overeager search for proof that human beings are animals, without higher qualities."

I have the same qualms you do, but, just to up the ante a little more, I am a physicist and a theist at the same time.

This branch of research falls broadly into the field of evolutionary biology/psychology, and I personally find it as a quite solid bit of science (quite unlike sociology or poltical science, neither of which are remotely related to real science). I have no doubt physiology is indicative of temperment - hormones directly affect bone structure growth. Evolutionary psychology/biology seems to explain a lot of human behavior very well, particularly with gender relationships and mating strategies, which have enormous influence on natural selection.

Just to give you one example: Why does female fertility crash after 35, while men can father children into their fifties? Because after a certain point, it is no longer advantageous to bear more children - a 35yo woman would likely have several children, and the risk of dying during labor (which would endanger all the children), outweighs the reward of more offspring. Men, on the other hand, have no such problem.

Is it demeaning to think of our bodies and our behaviors in such clinical terms? Of course - but as a religous person, I believe in free will and moral agency. As a moral agent, accountable to God, I can transcend those biological urges. So I think it is possible to fully explore our animal nature without fear, as long as we are secure in the knowledge of our free agency.

Ann Althouse said...

Altoids: I only object to what seems overeager. If it's good science, I strongly support it -- even if it hurts.

altoids1306 said...

(Some other thoughts - drifting off topic a little)

It does bother me when science articles suggest that biology/upbringing/culture is destiny, that we are slaves to our genes or our environment. Which is why I hate news articles about the "smoking gene" or the "obesity gene". Scientists are generally quite careful with words, and in the scientific literature, there is absolutely no implication that these genes will "make" us do something - only statistical correlations. But the news media exaggerates those findings, turning genes into predestination, and forming yet another ring of the it's-not-your-fault, self-esteem boosting victimhood.

Goldfish can stuff themselves to death. Humans can too - but we can choose not too. This is why I can't give a moral free pass to terrorists. Yes, they have historical grievances, they have nothing to live for, and they have been fed a militant ideology. But they are still moral agents, and they chose this path. They chose to kill innocents.

Jacques Cuze said...

Johnny Nucleo, I don't have to say "yes I would let them die", I can add context, and make it clear that if an ethical human rights oriented process is followed, human life can be respected, deaths can most likely be avoided, civil rights ensured, and my thoughts can be in accordance with PHR, AMA, and the WMA."

Since a) the prior hunger strike stopped when prisoners were told that the geneva conventions would be followed, b) the current hunger strike was restarted after those agreements were broken, it seems reasonable to believe that following the PHR recommendations will stop many more deaths than Professor Althouse would claim if I gave the simple statement "Yes, I would let them die."

That is not pussying out, that is saying no when others would force me into a either-or game, which it is not.

Madison Man, I congratulate you for being what appears to be the only other person to try to read the actual research. Only one person read the research before commenting (hint: not Professor Althouse)

To find the research online for free don't go to the journal page. IIRC, go to the professor's page. It actually is online at the journal, but only the abstract is free, and only if you can find the missing month.

Palladian said...

So again, quxxo takes over the comments. Sigh. I don't know where you go for those sweet, brief periods when you're not commenting here but wherever it is, book a longer stay next time. Talk about force-feeding! You're the master of it! Stop shoving your unwanted comments down our throats, you torturer!

I wonder how gay men and women fit into this "study"? "Dominant" or "submissive"? I could go for either, depending on my mood...

Jacques Cuze said...

Hey Illudium-Q36, in what sense did I "take over" the comments? If you look back, you will see what I did was engage in a conversation, mostly in response to questions that were posed of me.

Why is that people don't ask you for your opinions?

jinnmabe said...

What is your opinion of that last comment, Palladian?

Simon Kenton said...

I've known a couple men who could tell when their wives were ovulating; it appears to take pretty acute senses and you have to love the woman. A lot.

I knew one man who could tell when women entered a room if they were menstruating; he was something of a gentlemen, and might take you aside to suggest special consideration for Kathy, as she was having her period. If we posit human senses are normally distributed, he had to be about +4s for the sense of smell. And in fact he could successfully hunt elk by jogging down a main drainage and testing the morning downslope winds from tributary drainages. If there was a herd up the tributary, even 3/4 mile away, he could smell them.

MadisonMan said...

Having found and read the paper, I'm not impressed with the robustness of the statistics. For example, the 'dominant' and 'submissive' faces were judged that way by 11 people. Of the 64 men who were in the study, 59 were white -- so how can the results be generalized to Global populations? The low sample sizes also mean the results are just barely significant in a statistical sense.

So as I said, I'm very skeptical. You can read the paper -- it's a link off
This website

Ann Althouse said...

Simon: "I knew one man who could tell when women entered a room if they were menstruating; he was something of a gentlemen, and might take you aside to suggest special consideration for Kathy, as she was having her period."

Well, if you think that's amusing conversation, you can do it too. Because it's utterly irrelevant, of course, whether the guy actually could tell. Most men who purport to tell, however, are basing their judgment on the woman's behavior. They say things like "You must be having your period." Which pisses off menstruating and nonmenstruating women alike -- and is not recommended.

Bissage said...

I know it's a bit late for this but: Wasn't there a post-apocalyptic movie called "A Boy and His Dog" where a young, horny Don Johnson had a telepathic dog who could smell women?

Palladian said...

"They say things like "You must be having your period." Which pisses off menstruating and nonmenstruating women alike -- and is not recommended."

That reminds me of the "cartoon" scene in Annie Hall where the Woody Allen cartoon character says that to the Diane Keaton cartoon character who is dressed as the witch from Disney's Snow White.

Zeldazot said...


Ok, glad to hear that we are indeed animals.

As far as ovulation goes, the studies that your commenters are referring to are all behavioral science. Since the DNA that encodes for the required sensory receptors for the pathways that are being studied is degenerate (that is, non functional) in humans, I can only conclude that the behavioral data is an artefact due to tiny sample size.

Simon Kenton said...

Really, Ann, bite my head off. It seems as if you want to lure me into a remark as apposite as caddish. With regard to that story about his perceiving their periods, the women corroborated, so it was not just a good-old-boys attempt to derogate your sex by asserting the unverifiable in support of a locker-room myth about the ghastly carryings-on in the menstrual lodge.

A friend told me this: she was worried about being pregnant. Her husband said, "Oh, I remember the time you are thinking about. You weren't ovulating." Then he leaned close to her face, inhaled, and said, "Your period will be here in 2 days." It was, and she was astonished that her husband could know, did know, this sort of thing about her.

What I was trying to imply in the previous post was that millions of years hunting, and a deep connection with a woman, can (at least briefly) lift a man out of the category of 'insensitive clod.'

Jennifer said...

Ok, Simon. Your friend's husband isn't an insensitive clod. He's creepy.

And your "gentleman" friend openly shared that he believed a woman was menstruating and asked her to corroborate? I'm sorry that makes him an insensitive clod, ability to sniff out ovulation notwithstanding.

Jack said...

Jennifer: I concur. And why exactly would a gentleman need to provide a reason to give a woman preferential treatment? Shouldn't we always be doing so, just because... we're gentlemen?

Walter said...

Oh my God, quxxo is right. There is another option between let them starve and force feed them. We could appease the protesters and give them everything they want, then they should start eating.

Ever notice how some people love to structure the argument so that it comes down to give me [or them] what we want and everything will be OK. Very rarely does it go the other way.

submandave said...

"Do you seriously think human males can sense when females are ovulating the way male monkeys react to estrus in female monkeys? I don't."

Anne, this question prompted me to remember a strange and embarassing experience I had once at the Museum of Natural History in NYC. While viewing some exhibit a young girl, maybe 13 or 14, entirely unremarkable, came near with her father. With neither warning nor conscious thought I was struck with a very strong erection. At first I made no connection between the event and the girl's presence until the exact same thing happened at least two more times when she either approached or passed me, at which point I changed my path to intentionally avoid her.

As I said, it was quite embarassing for me and, frankly, I was rather upset and disturbed by it all. She was not particularly precocious in development or attitude, nor did she dress or behave in any way provocative. I have never felt any attraction to barely pubescent girls (including her) and have never had another similar occurence. I've thought of this event from time-to-time and the only explanation I can come up with that does not involve latent paedophilia is that my body experienced a chemical reaction of some sort, most probably related to the girl maturing sexually.

I've never shared this story, for fear somone may misunderstand the way my body reacted, but feel that if I can experience a strong physical reaction to what I can only assume to be sexual stimulus it is not, I think, a stretch to conjecture that more subtle, almost unconscious reactions to sexual stimuli from a close partner can affect us as well.

Allan said...

Dominant-looking and submissive-looking faces are judged by naive raters, much the same way that handsome and plain faces can be rated. We are all offended by the Nazis, but why apply such an appalling label to fairly done social psychological research? Just as looking beautiful affects the way people react to you, looking dominant or submissive does too. A study of the West Point Class of 1950, carried out by non-Nazis, showed that facially dominant cadets had reached higher ranks than their classmates, 20+ years after graduation. Another study showed that facially dominant teen boys had earlier first intercourse than their age peers. Please keep straight what was evil about Nazism, and don't loosely apply that label to research that you personally don't like. amazur@syr.edu