One of the most used ratios in the face is the facial width-to-height ratio. It has many applications, from determining psychopathic tendencies to trustworthiness. One of the things that many studies (and people) are interested in is the connection between FWHR and attractiveness.
FWHR has links to male aggression and dominance. These links do not make a person automatically attractive, though they might. It is more likely that FWHR has positive links with short term attractiveness rather than long-term relationships from a woman’s perspective. The link between FWHR and attractiveness in women is not very apparent.
There are conflicting opinions about the relationship between FWHR and attractiveness. On the one hand, many studies cite a direct relationship between FWHR and attractiveness, even if it is just in the short term. But on the other hand, some meta-analyses of FWHR and attractiveness say that there is no direct link between them. This study by Geniole et al. (2015) tells us that FWHR negatively correlates with perceived attractiveness. The meta-analyses of several studies also concluded that women seem to perceive high fWHR as unattractive. This conclusion is due to the negative relationship between FWHR and attractiveness being higher whenever the judge was a woman.
Regardless, we already generally accept that women prefer masculine faces as opposed to feminized faces. With a high FWHR, a person’s face looks more masculine and distinct. This indication alone gives us reason to believe the positive relationship between a high FWHR and attractiveness.
To preface the rest of this article, an ongoing bias in reporting data regarding FWHR and attractiveness exists. Since the presently accepted idea is that the two are positively connected or significant to each other, the research that is more likely to get published should align with those ideas. According to Hasselhuhn et al. (2015), in another meta-analysis of FWHR and attractiveness, there is a problem called the ‘file drawer effect.’ This effect happens when the research that gets published is only that which has significant results. Thus, creating a biased representation of null results. This problem may affect the results that we will discuss throughout this article.
What Is FWHR?
FWHR has many implications. In essence, we use it to determine the compactness of the middle of the face. FWHR is the ratio between the widest part of the face (or bizygomatic width) and the face’s length. In this context, the face’s length is not the face entirely, but only a part of it. We’ll talk more about the measurement in the next section.
Many people use FWHR as a metric for attractiveness. Ideally, one would use FWHR to see if they have a broad face. A broad face is generally a masculine feature that is attractive. A face that is too long and thin could result in an unattractive appearance. FWHR usually goes together with ratios and measurements like the midface ratio, the forehead height, and others.
But FWHR needs analysis together with the other parts of the face. FWHR, as a standalone ratio, is helpful, but not as much as it would be with other facial metrics. For example, having a good FWHR would mean little if you had an unusually long chin. That would mean that your face overall still looks quite long. Similarly, a large forehead could undermine the appearance of a decent FWHR. But FWHR is important even as a standalone ratio because many features concentrate in the face’s center. FWHR is not merely for the length of the face in the literal sense. It takes into account the space that matters. In this context, that space is the middle area where you will find the eyes and the nose.
How to Measure FWHR?
The first step to measuring FWHR is to take note of the widest part of the face. Usually, this is the bizygomatic width. You can measure bizygomatic width by measuring the distance between one of your cheekbones to the other end. This process has to be with a stoic facial expression and looking directly at the camera (if you are using a photo). Many measurements go wrong because of facial expressions, so it is important to keep your face void of expression when measuring.
Next is measuring the length. This aspect of FWHR is a little bit of a debatable topic. Even the studies on FWHR do not all have the same metric for measuring length. The most common way to measure facial height is by noting the distance from the upper lip to the middle of the eyebrows. Alternatively, some studies also used the distance from the upper lip to the eyelids’ highest point. Although it is not much of a difference, the discrepancy could affect the results.
Wen et al. (2020) concluded that men with high FWHR were more aggressive based on two different FWHR measurements: one, measuring the upper lip’s length up to the mid-brow, and the other one up to the upper eyelid. Their findings stated that there seems to be more connection when using a measurement that goes up to the mid-brow, suggesting that it is a better measurement for FWHR.
What Is the Ideal FWHR?
The ideal FWHR is around 1.9. Some would also say that an FWHR of 2 is excellent, but there are conflicting opinions. Generally, you want an FWHR that is high at 1.8-1.9. The lower end of FWHR is around 1.4-1.6 and results in a long face that is not attractive.
FHWR adds to the masculinity of a face, making it more attractive. However, despite many forums saying that the ideal FWHR should be high, there’s little research to specifically back those claims. Still, some studies came to the same conclusion. This study by Valentine et al. (2014) concluded that FWHR is positively associated with short-term attraction. The specifics with short-term attraction makes sense since their experiment centered on speed dating. But the idea that higher FWHR has positive associations with attractiveness comes from the fact that men with higher FWHR look more dominant, and thus, more attractive. It is necessary to examine the other behaviors linked with FWHR to determine how a high ratio helps with attractiveness.
FWHR and Attractiveness in Men
The correlation between FWHR and attractiveness is indirect more than it is direct. Only a few studies dedicate the exploration of FWHR and attractiveness in men in a direct sense. The study by Valentine on speed dating is an example. Most of the time, FWHR and its relation to attractiveness are due to other reasons such as perceived dominance or a high level of success. Many existing studies pursue the idea of FWHR and its link to many behavioral traits.
Let’s begin with testosterone. Many think that a high FWHR is related to testosterone levels. High testosterone levels generally give a more masculine appearance and thus, result in higher levels of attractiveness. And as a purported sexually dimorphic trait, it’s reasonable to conclude that FWHR and testosterone are directly related. However, this study by Noser et al. (2018) states that the relationship between FWHR and testosterone is not direct, but their effects may be intertwined. Another study by Hodges-Simeon et al. (2018) tells us that adult FWHR is not associated with testosterone. These findings challenge the idea that FWHR is a sexually dimorphic characteristic. From this very first finding, we can already tell that FWHR and attractiveness may be difficult to assess from one perspective alone.
Next, let’s talk about dominance. We have already established that FWHR has close links to dominance and dominant traits. Many studies have already found that dominant features can make a man look more attractive (though other studies have found the opposite). Considering that FWHR and dominance have a direct relationship, it follows that a higher FWHR will make a man more attractive through dominance. However, that is only one aspect of FWHR and attractiveness.
On the flip side, aggressiveness also has links to FWHR. Higher FWHR means that a man is more likely to act aggressively. This result is usually undisputed in many case studies, and previous studies lead to the same results. A higher FWHR ratio could be intimidating and, thus, less attractive to some women while more attractive to others. In this aspect, a higher FWHR does not necessarily increase attractiveness. By this point, the traits that point to FWHR and attractiveness don’t necessarily line up to paint a clear picture. As previously mentioned, there are conflicting ideas about FWHR and attractiveness.
If we try to examine the results of these studies, and many researchers have through meta-analyses, we’ll find that it’s not easy to distinguish a line where a high FWHR turns out to be in a man’s favor. Undeniably, it does in some situations. We see in many men that we might consider attractive high FWHR ratios, such as Brad Pitt and Ian Somerhalder, for example. To summarize, a high FWHR can have amazing benefits. For one, it asserts dominance and, through that, makes a man more attractive. But it can also make a man look more aggressive and, thus, decrease trust with the opposite sex. The best way to approach the analysis of the FWHR would be to take into account the harmony of the midface. After all, a good ratio is meaningless without the right features to back it.
FWHR and Attractiveness in Women
There is limited information available on FWHR and attractiveness in women. This research gap makes sense because bizygomatic width and a wider face are reportedly sexually dimorphic traits, and women tend to have slimmer and daintier faces. Still, some studies talk about FWHR in women, though they may not directly lead to attractiveness.
In this study by Wen et al. (2020), the researchers concluded that FWHR has links to dominance, even in women, which may affect attractiveness. Before, many researchers have already established that women with dominant features are less attractive. Even though previous studies and meta-analyses imply FWHR is sexually dimorphic, the study by Wen resulted in little to low discrepancy in FWHR across the sexes. Still, one study is not enough to challenge previously accepted ideas.
One theory for what FWHR does for women is to make them look more youthful. High facial width is a neotenous feature. Babies have very wide faces, and as we grow our face grows downward and forward, decreasing our FWHR.
Previous studies usually do not find links between aggression and FWHR in women, which is very common in men. However, that’s not nearly as simple as we might think. Aggression may be more prevalent in men since they are more likely to lash out with aggression through direct means. Women’s aggression is more likely to be covert and passive. You would generally not want an aggressive partner, which means that we perceive aggression to be less attractive. Since there is little correlation to FWHR in women and aggression, there’s also little links to connect it to attractiveness.
Is FWHR Important in Attractiveness?
Undoubtedly, yes. Even with the conflicting research results prevalent over many years of study, FWHR remains an important facet of appearance. In today’s time, we pay a lot of attention to facial ratios, harmony, and balance, so a good FWHR is more important than ever.
A good FWHR, which needs harmony with other features, is important in achieving an overall balance to the facial appearance.
Take note that a low FWHR is going to give you a long and unattractive face. Even without research to back it, you can already tell that those are not desirable characteristics to have. With a proper FWHR, you can avoid the appearance of the ‘long’ face and look youthful.
Many people do not know about FWHR, so how does it matter?
If you are the type of person who is not interested in facial ratios or facial balance, chances are you probably don’t know much about FWHR. If it’s so important in facial appearance, then how come so little people know about it? Sure, people might not know the specifics of FWHR, but we already act on our perceptions of it even without knowing what it is. When we see a masculine face brought upon by a high FWHR, we notice that they have an attractive face. It’s all done subconsciously and automatically.
Other Behaviors Linked To FWHR
As previously established, FWHR has many links to behavioral and psychological traits. Researchers have conducted studies that correlate FWHR to various kinds of traits and behaviors. Some of them have good results, some bad. We’ll take a look at a couple and then examine how they relate to attractiveness.
FWHR has links not only to aggression in behavior but physical manifestations of aggression as well. In Wen’s study, the researchers confirmed that FWHR correlated to physical assault by men in committed relationships. These findings are by no means new and only confirmed previous results by other studies. Although we can see FWHR as an attractive feature, it can be detrimental in terms of aggression.
Psychopathic Traits in Males
In this study by Anderl et al. (2016), the researchers analyzed how FWHR predicts males’ psychopathic traits. The results were a stable positive relationship between FWHR and psychopathy scores. An incidental result of the study was the finding that FWHR also relates to self-centered impulsivity. Unlike the other studies previously mentioned, this one talked about how testosterone affected these psychopathic traits, showing testosterone as one reason for the development of psychopathic traits.
It can be difficult to tell from a first glance how this could relate to attractiveness. Normally, psychopathic tendencies are not something that you see visually on a first impression. But these results may explain why FWHR is attractive in the short-term but not in the long-term, as previously mentioned from another study.
There are conflicting results in studies about FWHR and trustworthiness. We’ll take a look at this one study by Stirrat et al. (2010). The researchers found that males who had higher ratios were more likely to exploit the trust of others. In the same manner, players were also more likely to trust men with narrower faces than those with wider faces. These results tell us that FWHR and trustworthiness have an inverse relationship. The higher your FWHR is, the lower your trustworthiness will be.
This level of trustworthiness becomes a problem when you are trying to get someone to trust you. In the same study, the researchers said that being trustworthy is more likely to make you look more attractive. In most situations, that is true. Even if we try to analyze our daily interactions with people, we probably also have a bias towards unattractive people, and we trust them less. In this case, FWHR does not work in favor of attractiveness. The results are a little conflicting if we consider that FWHR has a positive relationship with attractiveness. Supposedly, that should make a man more trustworthy, and not the opposite. These findings only add another layer to the complexity of analyzing FWHR and attractiveness.
There is a study by Hahn et al. (2017) that analyzed the link between FWHR and success in various important people throughout the world. The findings of the study were that CEOs with higher FWHR were more likable. They were more likely to have satisfied employees and had charitable contributions to different organizations. The research does not promote the potentially discriminating nature of some studies that suggest that men with wider faces were more aggressive and less trustworthy. Even though that is the case in many studies, at least major leaders with high FWHR had a good reputation. The study results end on the positive note that higher FWHR has possible links to success.
In terms of success, FWHR seems to be nothing but a bonus. Of course, more studies are still required.
Overall, there is no agreed consensus regarding FWHR and how it can affect attractiveness in an academic sense. However, if we look at it from a reasonable perspective, most would say that the masculinity that a high FWHR brings in is an attractive trait. Studies mostly focus on the links between FWHR, aggression, and other behavioral traits mentioned above, not directly on attractiveness itself. In real-life situations, how FWHR determines attractiveness is on a case by case basis.