Male facial width is associated with death by contact violence: narrow-faced males are more likely to die from contact violence


Male facial width-to-height ratio (bizygomatic width scaled for face height) is a testosterone-linked trait predictive of reactive aggression, exploitative behavior, cheating, deception, and dominance. We tested whether facial width was systematically related to cause of death in a forensic sample. We hypothesized that wider-faced males, being more aggressive and robust, would be less likely than narrower-faced males to die from contact violence (stabbed, strangled, or bludgeoned to death) compared with other forms of homicide. We tested this hypothesis in a forensic data sample covering 523 male and 339 female skeletons. In these data, men with narrower faces were more likely to have died as a consequence of homicides involving direct physical contact than men with wider faces. No such effect was found for women. This effect was found when considering all causes of mortality and when limiting the sample to homicides. This finding suggests that wider-faced males are less likely to die from male–male physical violence, perhaps because of their formidability. Our findings are discussed with reference to the previous literature indicating that facial width-to-height ratio is a marker for male dominance.

In Evolution and Human Behavior