Women seem more aggressive as they age — but that’s not why you think it is


Throughout history, older women have often been labeled witches or wenches, as the impeccable bloom of youth gives way to an old-fashioned defiance in their countenances.

Well, scientists have found that women’s faces actually appear wider and more aggressive than men’s after the age of 48, but the reason is more intriguing than simple biology.

Researchers in Australia have suggested that men with the most aggressive facial features end up in prison or die young, taking them out of society and distorting the relationship of less attractive faces to women later in life.

Scientists believe that humans are programmed to see wider faces as more aggressive, as this is a marker of high testosterone loads in the womb.

Experts have suggested that the facial cue may have evolved to demonstrate power and status if other masculine signs, such as a large chin and jaw, were obscured by facial hair.

Ancestors who didn’t understand the warning sign could find themselves confronted with a more unpredictable and violent individual.

In a new study, researchers at the University of New South Wales asked volunteers to look at 17,000 passport photos and rate how aggressive they found each person.

Individuals in the photos were judged more antagonistic if they had a wide, square face, known as a high face width-to-height ratio (FWHR), which is the distance between the cheekbones divided by the distance between the center of the eyebrow and the face indicates the upper lip.

In contrast, people with oval faces—low FWHR—were considered more composed and gentle.

According to the study, men between the ages of 27 and 33 were most likely to be perceived as aggressive, women between 34 and 61 years.

Throughout younger ages, males were consistently considered to be more aggressive, but the pattern changed just before age 50, with a greater proportion of females recording higher FWHRs than males and therefore being more likely to be perceived as aggressive.

The team said the switch is difficult to explain and could be due to gender differences, where weight accumulates or decreases with age.

But writing in the Royal Society Open Science magazine this month, they added: “Other possibilities are that fewer and fewer men are [more aggressive faces] apply for a passport later in life—perhaps because many men with the largest face width-to-height ratio can be removed from society by imprisonment or earlier mortality compared to women.

“Other possibilities are that the reversal is related to age-related structural changes in faces, such as differences in the rate of facial elongation with age.”

The researchers said they also couldn’t rule out the possibility that men and women tilt their heads slightly differently as they age, which changes how their faces appear in photographs.

Previous studies have shown that people tend to tilt or bow their heads to appear more aggressive, thereby bluffing themselves out of a possible fight, the researchers said.

In 2008, Brock University in Ontario found that hockey players with broader faces were more likely to be fined for violent offenses, including stick slaps, elbowing, and brawls. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Women seem more aggressive as they age — but that’s not why you think it is

Fry Electronics Team

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