Race Differences in Face-ism: Does Facial Prominence Imply Dominance?

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Abstract

It was hypothesized that visual depictions that are lower in “face-ism” (i.e., showing less of the face and more of the body) elicit impressions of lower power. It was thus predicted that depictions of a discriminated-against minority would be lower in face-ism than those of a dominant majority. Four data sets showed lower face-ism in visual displays of Blacks than in those of Whites: Pictures from American and European periodicals, American portrait paintings, and American stamps (the portraits and the stamps showed the effect only when created by Whites). The race difference in face-ism for the American periodicals was maintained even when the race difference in status was held constant. A final study showed that high face-ism photographs received higher dominance ratings than low face-ism photographs. Face can be used to imply confrontation (e.g., face-to-face)—a meaning that is consistent with the link between face-ism and dominance.

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