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Old 10-27-2008, 07:52 AM   #1
Stuart Buck
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Strength in your Face?

Interesting psychology study here, finding that people are able to guess how strong your upper body is just by looking at your face: http://www.ia.ucsb.edu/pa/display.aspx?pkey=1867 [wfs]
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UCSB Study Finds Physical Strength, Fighting Ability Revealed in Human Faces

October 22, 2008

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) 末 For our ancestors, misjudging the physical strength of a would-be opponent might have resulted in painful 末 and potentially deadly 末 defeat.

Now, a study conducted by a team of scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara has found that a mechanism exists within the human brain that enables people to determine with uncanny accuracy the fighting ability of men around them by honing in on their upper body strength. What's more, that assessment can be made even when everything but the men's faces are obscured from view. A paper highlighting the researchers' findings appears in the current issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

"Assessing fighting ability was important for our ancestors, and the characteristic that the mind implicitly equates with fighting ability is upper body strength," said Aaron Sell, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSB's Center for Evolutionary Psychology and the paper's lead author. "That's the component of strength that's most relevant to premodern combat. The visual assessment of fighting ability is almost perfectly correlated with the perception of strength, and both closely track actual upper body strength. What is a bit spooky is that upper body strength can even be read on a person's face.

Sell conducted the study with Leda Cosmides, a professor of psychology and co-director of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology; John Tooby, a professor of anthropology and also co-director of the Center for Evolutionary Psychology; Michael Gurven, an associate professor of anthropology; and graduate students Daniel Sznycer and Christopher von Rueden.

The study consisted of four sections, each of which asked the test subjects to assess the physical strength of individuals based on photographs of their faces, their bodies, or both. Subjects were asked to rank the physical strength or fighting ability of the people in the photographs on a scale of one to seven. When the photographs depicted men whose strength had been measured precisely on weight-lifting machines, the researchers found an almost perfect correlation between perceptions of fighting ability and perceptions of strength. "When you see that kind of correlation it's telling you you're measuring the same underlying variable," said Tooby.

They also found that perceptions of strength and fighting ability reflected the target's actual strength, as measured on weight-lifting machines at the gym. In other sections of the study, the researchers showed that this result extended far beyond the gym. Both men and women accurately judge men's strength, whether those men are drawn from a general campus population, a hunter-horticulturalist group in Bolivia, or a group of herder-horticulturalists living in the Argentinian Andes.

* * *

"The next step is to isolate what it is in the face that indicates upper body strength," said Sell. He suggests that the correlation may lie in the heavier brow ridge and thicker jaw that result from increased levels of testosterone. "Many studies have been done on the effects of testosterone on the face. There's a good chance testosterone is involved in regulating the body for battle, and men with high testosterone 末 those with a heavy brow ridge and thicker jaw 末 developed bodies that were more prepared for combat."

* * *
The question I have is whether getting stronger really changes anything about your face, or whether this is just showing that guys who have a lot of testosterone to start with (and have different facial features) are more likely to exercise and get strong. It would be interesting to see a bunch of before/after pictures just focusing on the face.
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Old 10-27-2008, 08:24 AM   #2
Shane Skowron
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Re: Strength in your Face?

This is very interesting. Thanks for this find.

However I believe this article may be misleading in the sense that it made no mention of bodyfat levels, which I speculate contribute greatly to the appearance of "strength" through the face. While there may be a correlation in men between sharp features and strength, this in no way indicates causation.

Two extreme examples came to mind instantly. Hossein Rezazadeh, one of the strongest men alive, has a very round face. Dean Karnazes, an ultramarathoner who is not particularly strong in terms of power/Olympic lifts, has a very sharp face. These are both consequences of bodyfat levels and have nothing to do with their strength. In fact most endurance athletes have that same appearance of "strength" in their face that the article describes, and it's been shown that endurance training and racing is responsible for decrease, not increase, in testosterone levels.
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Old 10-27-2008, 10:57 AM   #3
Steven Anderson
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Re: Strength in your Face?

Not a bad article, though this quote is kinda off: "If, for example, you're trying to lift something really heavy, or run a long distance, your lower body 末 your legs 末 will also be significant. But for fighting at close quarters, it's the upper body that really matters."

I'll assume the author and researchers have never boxed and been told to "sit down on their punches." All the power that goes into a punch comes from the ground up through the legs. The legs are the power generating source. Of course today with MMA and all, those guys are throwing knees and kicks within very close proximity to their opponents. Most MMA fighters and boxers will tell you that the first thing to go in combat are the legs, especially after getting "stunned."

Still, a good read.
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Old 10-27-2008, 04:00 PM   #4
Tim Luby
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Re: Strength in your Face?

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Originally Posted by Steven Anderson View Post
Not a bad article, though this quote is kinda off: "If, for example, you're trying to lift something really heavy, or run a long distance, your lower body 末 your legs 末 will also be significant. But for fighting at close quarters, it's the upper body that really matters."

I'll assume the author and researchers have never boxed and been told to "sit down on their punches." All the power that goes into a punch comes from the ground up through the legs. The legs are the power generating source. Of course today with MMA and all, those guys are throwing knees and kicks within very close proximity to their opponents. Most MMA fighters and boxers will tell you that the first thing to go in combat are the legs, especially after getting "stunned."

Still, a good read.
I agree completely, Steve. But as far as "sizing someone up," I'd say the upper body is what we all look at first.
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Old 10-27-2008, 07:25 PM   #5
David Bott
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Re: Strength in your Face?

And what about cultures whose fighting styles do not rely on upper body strength to be successful- like in JuJitsu or Chinese soft form Kung Fu styles? The idea that strong equals successful in a fight is a very western concept.
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Old 10-27-2008, 10:00 PM   #6
Stephen Smith
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Re: Strength in your Face?

I'd say the factors that contribute to this phenomenon far predate any cultural fighting styles. The last few thousand years of development of combat techniques into 'martial arts' doesn't undo millions of years of evolution.
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Old 10-28-2008, 04:10 AM   #7
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Re: Strength in your Face?

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Originally Posted by Tim Luby View Post
I agree completely, Steve. But as far as "sizing someone up," I'd say the upper body is what we all look at first.
Yea, that is true.
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Old 10-28-2008, 07:37 AM   #8
Andrew James
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Re: Strength in your Face?

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Originally Posted by David Bott View Post
And what about cultures whose fighting styles do not rely on upper body strength to be successful- like in JuJitsu or Chinese soft form Kung Fu styles? The idea that strong equals successful in a fight is a very western concept.
You're missing the forest for the trees.

This article is saying that this is a primordial instinct that predates martial arts by tens of thousands of years, maybe to the point where human beings were still "wild" animals.

The idea is that people are able to make accurate judgments regarding an individual's strength level based on very minimal information. From an evolutionary perspective of survival in pre-civilized, hand to hand, weaponless combat this instinct makes perfect sense.
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Old 10-28-2008, 09:40 AM   #9
Sean Dunston
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Re: Strength in your Face?

umm - yeah.
I am a Gaucho (UCSB class of 1995) and I have to say that I did not need a published study to figure this one out. There is no way I'd ever mess with this guy... Just by looking at his brow ridge and jaw, I can tell he's stronger than I am.
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Old 10-28-2008, 01:43 PM   #10
Steven Anderson
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Re: Strength in your Face?

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Originally Posted by Sean Dunston View Post
umm - yeah.
I am a Gaucho (UCSB class of 1995) and I have to say that I did not need a published study to figure this one out. There is no way I'd ever mess with this guy... Just by looking at his brow ridge and jaw, I can tell he's stronger than I am.
http://www.softcom.net/users/abingham/brocklesnar.jpg
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