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PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e42705. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042705. Epub 2012 Aug 7.

A lack of sexual dimorphism in width-to-height ratio in white European faces using 2D photographs, 3D scans, and anthropometry.

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School of Psychology, Bangor University, Bangor, United Kingdom.


Facial width-to-height ratio has received a great deal of attention in recent research. Evidence from human skulls suggests that males have a larger relative facial width than females, and that this sexual dimorphism is an honest signal of masculinity, aggression, and related traits. However, evidence that this measure is sexually dimorphic in faces, rather than skulls, is surprisingly weak. We therefore investigated facial width-to-height ratio in three White European samples using three different methods of measurement: 2D photographs, 3D scans, and anthropometry. By measuring the same individuals with multiple methods, we demonstrated high agreement across all measures. However, we found no evidence of sexual dimorphism in the face. In our third study, we also found a link between facial width-to-height ratio and body mass index for both males and females, although this relationship did not account for the lack of dimorphism in our sample. While we showed sufficient power to detect differences between male and female width-to-height ratio, our results failed to support the general hypothesis of sexual dimorphism in the face.

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