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Does Your Face Reveal Your Job?

If you're a leader in business, sports, or the military, people might be able to tell just by looking at your face, according to recent research published in The Leadership Quarterly. A team led by Christopher Y. Olivola of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon found that participants could identify occupations for leaders "with above-chance accuracy."

If you’re a leader in business, sports, or the military, people might be able to tell just by looking at your face, according to recent research published in The Leadership Quarterly. A team led by Christopher Y. Olivola of the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon found that participants could identify occupations for leaders “with above-chance accuracy.”

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(Photo Credit: liber/Flickr)

“In one experiment, Olivola and the research team showed about 600 British adults real, black-and-white photos of CEOs, military generals, state governors, and coaches, cropped tightly so only their faces were seen,” writes Melissa Dahl at The Science of Us. “(All the photos were of white men, and famous faces weren’t used.) Two photos were presented together, and the study participants were to identify which one was, for example, the businessman, and to rate how accurate they believed their guesses were.”

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Participants played more than 80 rounds of this photo-identifying game, and were able to accurately determine which pictures represented leaders more than chance would allow — unless the photos depicted political leaders. (Researchers still aren’t sure why, although politicians and businessmen rated higher in a separate experiment for warmth and competence, while sports leaders rated higher for masculine appearance.)

Before you start worrying — or hoping — that your job will affect your looks, keep in mind co-author Dawn L. Eubanks’ explanation:

“In fact, just having facial features that make one look like a good generic leader might not be sufficient to reach the most prestigious leadership positions in a domain; one may also need to possess facial features that stereotypically ‘fit’ the leaders in that domain. The most plausible explanation, in our view, is that leaders are being selected, at least partly, according to how they look.”

In other words, if you want to be the boss, being good at your job is important, but you probably also need to look the part — and some of that will have to do with the face you were born with, not the way you dress.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think people look like their jobs? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Smitty

Why is it that the only subjects that are deemed to be so distinguished are all white males. Highly ethnocentric and Eurocentric and absolutely supremacist. Maybe it’s because your contribution to society is so narcissist and violent you have to have something that makes you feel good. Guess what, the Latino is a comin. Whether you like it or not.

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