Facial masculinity and beardedness determine men's explicit, but not their implicit, responses to male dominance

James M. Sherlock, Bridget Tegg, Danielle Sulikowski, Barnaby J. W. Dixson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Sexual dimorphism in facial shape and beardedness are salient human secondary sexual traits that enhance perceptions of men’s social dominance. The majority of this evidence, however, comes from studies measuring explicit ratings. To our knowledge, few studies have tested whether facial masculinity and beardedness are implicitly associated with dominance. In the current study, we use a within-subjects design to test whether facial masculinity and beardedness drive implicit reactions and overt ratings of male dominance. Participants viewed stimuli depicting the same men when clean-shaven, with heavy stubble, and fully bearded that were morphed to be either more masculine or less masculine using computer graphic software. Participants completed an affective priming word categorisation task as well as explicit ratings of social dominance. No facilitation effects were observed for masculinised or bearded faces on implicit judgements relating to dominance. In contrast, results revealed that masculinized versions of clean-shaven, stubbled and fully bearded faces received higher explicit dominance ratings than feminized versions. However, the effects of facial masculinity were largest within clean-shaven stimuli and decreased as faces
became more hirsute, suggesting that facial masculinity had diminishing returns on dominance ratings. Our results support a role for masculine facial shape and beardedness in explicit, but not implicit, judgments of dominance among men.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-29
Number of pages16
JournalAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
Issue number1
Early online dateMay 2016
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


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