Physical Strength as a Cue to Dominance: A Data-Driven Approach

Hugo Toscano, Thomas W. Schubert, Ron Dotsch, Virginia Falvello, Alexander Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We investigate both similarities and differences between dominance and strength judgments using a data-driven approach. First, we created statistical face shape models of judgments of both dominance and physical strength. The resulting faces representing dominance and strength were highly similar, and participants were at chance in discriminating faces generated by the two models. Second, although the models are highly correlated, it is possible to create a model that captures their differences. This model generates faces that vary from dominant-yet-physically weak to nondominant-yet-physically strong. Participants were able to identify the difference in strength between the physically strong-yet-nondominant faces and the physically weak-yet-dominant faces. However, this was not the case for identifying dominance. These results suggest that representations of social dominance and physical strength are highly similar, and that strength is used as a cue for dominance more than dominance is used as a cue for strength.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1603-1616
Number of pages14
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


  • data-driven methods
  • dominance
  • face perception
  • physical strength


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