Human Faces Reveal Negotiation Skills and Outcomes

ON2018-04-04TAG: ShanghaiTech UniversityCATEGORY: School of Entrepreneurship and Management

In our daily lives, we often have to make quick judgments about strangers based on very little information. The face, as a distinct cue for social communication, is particularly useful for inferring individual characteristics in interpersonal judgment and decision making. The facial width-to-height ratio (FWHR) is one cue that people implicitly use to determine the extent to which men might be trustworthy, dominant, or aggressive.

To identify the potential impact of FWHR on intergroup negotiations, researchers randomly assigned 1,337 Chinese business executives from Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen to 288 groups and they completed a multi-issue negotiation exercise against each other. Results showed that both groups with larger than average FWHRs and those with larger maximum individual FWHRs achieved objectively better negotiation outcomes. These findings suggest new strategies for negotiators to enhance their negotiation performance. Everything else being equal, a new team member with larger, as opposed to smaller, FWHR would add more value to the team. Negotiators should also allocate appropriate attention and resources to handle negotiation counterparts with larger FWHRs.  

These findings were published in Frontiers in Psychology in an article titled, “Group facial width-to-height ratio predicts intergroup negotiation outcomes.” The study developed from a international collaboration, including ShanghaiTech Professor Yu Yang of the School of Entrepreneurship and Management and Professor Thomas Denson of the School of Psychology, University of New South Wales in Australia. Professor Yang’s past and present research assistants also contributed to the article. This work was supported by a faculty research grant awarded to Professor Yang by ShanghaiTech University.

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Figure: Example of measuring FWHR (To protect the identity of participants, researchers produced the present photo by merging three photos using Psychomorph.)