Shave your head.
At least that’s the finding from a new research project which suggests that men who take the preemptive step of shaving their head appear tougher and more powerful than others.
A shaved head indicates dominance, authority and… being in control.
Sounds like a fitting description of Hollywood’s leading action stars – Bruce Willis, Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and Jason Statham.
Their shaved heads play a significant role in their tough-guy image.
Greek soldiers during the reign of Alexander the Great were ordered to shave their heads as a defensive measure – to stop enemies from grabbing their hair in hand-to-hand combat.
Since then – a shaved head has become a symbol of aggression and toughness.
It takes a man of confidence to display a shorn head.
According to the research explained below – guys with shaved heads are also seen as 13% stronger, taller and having greater leadership potential than guys with a full head or thinning hair.
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In his late thirties, Albert Mannes a lecturer from The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business decided to take control of his receding hairline and shaved his head.
‘After fighting it for a while – one day I just decided to shave it off,’ he recalls.
He then observed a change in people’s perception of him: “Strangers were more standoffish, more deferential.”
People treated him differently when he started shaving his head – which made him wonder if other men with shaved heads had similar experiences.
To investigate further – he carried out three experiments to understand how men’s clean shaven heads were perceived by others.
He wanted to know if men who voluntarily shave their heads are perceived as having a different social standing than men with a full head of hair or men with receding hairlines.
In the paper, titled Shorn Scalps and Perceptions of Male Dominance – published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, Mannes describes the following three experiments conducted by him.
In the first experiment 59 volunteers analyzed 25 photographs of men who were enrolled in a business school program. Out of the 25 – 10 of the men had shaved heads. The rest wore their hair in different styles and lengths.
The participants were asked to rate each photograph based on their perceived power, influence, and authority.
When the results were averaged – the shaved men topped the ratings in terms of how powerful, influential and authoritative they looked.
Experiment #2 – A Shorn Head Increases The Strength Perception Of A Man By 13%
The results from the first experiment could be explained by saying that men who were more dominant chose to shave their heads. Would the ratings differ if the men with shorn heads were shown with a full head of hair?
In the second experiment – 344 adults were shown photographs of four different men.
One photo was of the man’s real hair and a second shot of him had been digitally altered to remove all his hair.
The participants assessed the photographs of the men with shaved heads as not only more dominant — but also an inch taller and 13% stronger (that is – seen as being able to bench press 13% more).
Experiment #3 – Thinning Hair, Shaved Head Or Full Hair?
For the final study – volunteers were given written descriptions of the men.
No photographs were used and more than 500 adults rated their perception of a man based solely on a written physical description of him.
All volunteers read the exact same profile except for the description of his hair, which portrayed him as having thick brown hair, thinning brown hair or a shaved head.
The man described as having a shaved head was rated highest in dominance, masculinity, leadership potential, and strength.
The guy with thick hair scored higher for attractiveness than a shorn scalp and slightly higher on confidence.
Except for norm violation – the man with thinning hair scored the lowest on every trait.
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What Does This Research Imply?
Men with shaved heads seem to have a halo effect. Perceptions related to dominance and masculinity seem to extend to physical characteristics such as height and strength.
1. Men with shaved heads project a powerful look.
The theory proposed by Mannes is that men who take the initiative to voluntarily shave their heads give off the impression of boldness and dominance.
The research suggests that while men with male-pattern baldness tend to be conscious of their condition – those who take the bold step of shaving their head tend to improve their image.
2. The shaved look is more attractive than the visibly balding look.
The studies also showed that men with thinning hairlines were rated as being less masculine than those who simply cut if off.
Shaved heads come across as more honest as opposed to men wearing toupees who are literally hiding something.
Men suffering natural hair loss may enhance both their dominance and attractiveness by shaving their head.
Men who are getting sparse on top are best advised to stop trying to cover it up and instead try the shaved look. The resulting shift in people’s perception could improve their self esteem.
3. Men With Shaved Heads Are Less Attractive And Seen As Being Older Than Men With A Full Head Of Hair
Although a shaved head had its advantages – men were rated as less attractive and nearly four years older than guys with thick tresses.
What a man gains in dominance by shaving his full head of hair will be offset to some degree by his diminished attractiveness.
Why Are Men With Shaved Heads Perceived As Dominant?
Why is a nearly bare head perceived as more dominant?
- In American culture – shaved heads are found in predominantly male professions such as the military, sports and law enforcement.
- Men who shave their heads are perceived as unconventional. Those with higher status in society are less inhibited by social norms and are more likely to violate them.
- It takes courage to ignore the aesthetic value society places on hair. It takes a man with a high level of confidence to get rid of hair altogether.
The general opinion is loud and clear – men and women prefer shaved heads to badly styled cover ups or toupees.
My friend Phil Paoletta discovered the benefits of shaving his head on a trip to West Africa. He hasn’t looked back since! Read his story for proof that this research is relevant to real life.
Having a shaved head results in greater perceptions of dominance, authority in leadership, confidence, masculinity, height and strength.
While having hair is still rated as more attractive – if a man’s hair is thinning then he may choose to shave his head in order to enhance these characteristics.
And don’t forget to wear a hat to protect your bare head!
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