What Does a Leader Look Like? An Evolutionary Perspective on Biases towards Leader's Facial Features

Benjamin Banai, Zvjezdan Penezić


Human face is a sexually dimorphic trait, and its morphology is related to various biological markers. During face perception, people make several inferences about others, such as sex, age, ethnicity, emotional state or personality traits. This process is automatic and rapid, and is included in all forms of social interactions. Some studies indicate that people have certain biases towards specific facial phenotypes during decision-making about who is the best candidate to be a group leader in an economic or political context. In this review paper, origins and functions of aforementioned biases will be discussed from an evolutionary psychological perspective. Evolutionary leadership theory, biosocial leadership categorization model and evolutionarycontingency hypothesis will be presented as the main theoretical frameworks in the field. Moreover, findings regarding bias towards perceived facial competence, masculinity-femininity and attractiveness will be described. Lastly, some limitations in the field will be addressed, together with the recommendations for future studies.


Evolutionary leadership theory; biosocial leadership categorization model; evolutionary contingency hypothesis; face perception


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