About-Face on Face Shape?

A new study about faces implies than an old study about faces (which we wrote about way back when) should not be taken at face value:

Lack of Support for the Association between Facial Shape and Aggression: A Reappraisal Based on a Worldwide Population Genetics Perspective,” Jorge Gómez-Valdés, Tábita Hünemeier, Mirsha Quinto-Sánchez, Carolina Paschetta, Soledad de Azevedo, Marina F. González, Neus Martínez-Abadías, Mireia Esparza, Héctor M. Pucciarelli, Francisco M. Salzano, Claiton H. D. Bau, Maria Cátira Bortolini, Rolando González-José, PLoS ONE 8(1), January 9, 2013, e52317. (Thanks to Ig Nobel Prize winner Geoffrey Miller for bringing this to our attention.) The authors explain:

“A recent study proposed that men with wider faces relative to facial height (fWHR) are more likely to develop unethical behaviour mediated by a psychological sense of power…. Here we show that 4,960 individuals from 94 modern human populations belonging to a vast array of genetic and cultural contexts do not display significant amounts of fWHR sexual dimorphism. Further analyses using populations with associated ethnographical records as well as samples of male prisoners of the Mexico City Federal Penitentiary condemned by crimes of variable level of inter-personal aggression (homicide, robbery, and minor faults) did not show significant evidence…. Overall, our results suggest that facial attributes are poor predictors of aggressive behaviour.”