The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

A man’s face reveals his body height: A GMM approach to ontogenetic and static allometry


1Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna, Austria, 2Department of Scientific Computing, Florida State University, USA, 3Department of Theoretical Biology, University of Vienna, Austria

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A large number of studies investigated which facial features lead to dominance attributions and other social inference, whereas separate studies assessed the role of body height in sexual selection. Facial allometry might link these approaches, but has received surprisingly little attention. To start with, we predict the presence of size cues in the adult face and relate them to the postnatal growth pattern.

Our sample comprises 44 frontal photographs of Austrian boys (6–11 years) and men (17–33 years) together with their body height. On each photo 35 anatomical landmarks and 34 semilandmarks were digitized.

We estimated allometry via regressions of facial shape on log centroid size and body height in the full ontogenetic sample as well as in the subsample of adults only. The ontogenetic regressions were very similar, reflecting the high correlation between facial size and body height during ontogeny (r= 0.83). The static regression pattern of adult facial shape on body height resembled the ontogenetic pattern with an overall elongation of the mid- and lower face, a relative decrease in eye size as well as a thickening and lowering of the eyebrows. By contrast, the relationship between adult facial shape and facial size was less pronounced and not statistically significant.

These results show that there are substantial shape cues to body height in the adult male face (with taller men having the more mature features). This might operate as confound in studies of facial masculinity, leadership, and mate preferences.

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