'Babyface' look can help black CEOs, study says

May 8, 2009 By JESSE WASHINGTON , AP National Writer
FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2004 file photo, Darden Restaurants' chief executive officer Clarence Otis fields questions during an interview at Darden's offices in Orlando, Fla. He is among four black CEOs that run Fortune 500 companies. Black Fortune 500 CEOs with a "babyface" appearance are more likely to lead companies with higher revenues and prestige than black CEOs who look more mature, an upcoming study says. (AP Photo/Williams Perry, File)

Black Fortune 500 CEOs with a "babyface" appearance are more likely to lead companies with higher revenues and prestige than black CEOs who look more mature, an upcoming study says.

In contrast with research showing that white executives are hindered by babyface characteristics, a disarming appearance can help black CEOs by counteracting the stigma that are threatening, according to the study from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Psychological Science in September.

A babyface is characterized by combinations of attributes, including a round face, full cheeks, larger forehead, small nose, large ears and full lips, the study says.

Decades of research has shown that people believe babyfaced adults to be more trustworthy, and respond to them with greater patience, sensitivity and compassion, according to Robert Livingston, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of organizations and management at Kellogg.

In the study, a group of 21 college students was shown photographs of 40 current and past CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Eleven of the students were white, 10 were Asian and 10 were female.

Of the 40 CEOs, 10 were black (only 10 blacks have ever led Fortune 500 companies). For every black CEO, a current or former white CEO from the same company was included. Another 10 CEOs were white women, and 10 white male CEOs were chosen at random.

Participants rated each photo on scale of 1-4 for "babyfaceness," leadership competence and personal warmth.

To account for differences in perceptions about blacks or whites in general, participants gave separate ratings on warmth and competence for "blacks," "whites" and "women," which were factored into the results.

The results showed that black CEOs who rated high on the babyface scale worked for companies that ranked higher in the Fortune 500 and had higher annual revenues than blacks with more mature faces. The reverse was true for whites - the more babyfaced CEOs tended to work for companies that ranked lower and had less annual revenue.

Black CEOs also were described as significantly more babyfaced than white CEOs. The female CEOs were rated as having more mature faces than both blacks and whites.

The study was duplicated with 106 student participants, with similar results.

Livingston said the study indicates that "disarming" characteristics, which have been shown to hinder white executives, can help black leaders.

"Physical appearance, how you behave, having mixed-race parents - anything that conveys to whites 'I'm not the typical black man' can be helpful," Livingston said.

That leads to the idea that black executives face a double standard, he said.

"If you're a white male, you can exhibit anger, pound your fist, make ultimatums ... African-Americans have to adopt a kinder, gentler style of leadership," Livingston said. "The same sorts of behaviors that are effective for white males can't be utilized effectively by black males."

Livingston said his conclusion is not that babyface black CEOs reached the pinnacle of success because of their looks: "I'm saying that African-American leaders have to adopt certain qualities or behaviors that make them appear less threatening ... a babyface gives a certain that they're docile."

Leslie Zebrowitz, a professor of psychology and social relations at Brandeis University who was not involved with the study, called the findings new and "compelling."

Another psychologist who has studied babyface appearance and was not involved in the study, Nicholas Rule of Tufts University, said the new study "builds on our understanding of how appearances can shape and affect individuals' outcomes."

Livingston acknowledged that the small sample size of 10 black CEOs could be an "Achilles' heel" of the study. "Statistics will take care of that to a certain degree," he said. "But one could say, 'How much do these 10 unique people generalize to the rest of the world?'"

The results rang true for Michael Hyter, the black president and of the management consulting firm Novations Group Inc. and co-author of the book "The Power of Inclusion."

"For anyone who's honest in the corporate space, you know that (disarming mechanisms) are a key to being successful," he said. "Technical skills are not enough. They need to get to know you based on who you are and not make a judgment on how you look."

"We all do it," Hyter added. "But what a person looks like doesn't really give you any indication what he or she is like."


On the Net:

Association of : http://www.psychologicalscience.org

Kellogg School of Management: www.kellogg.northwestern.edu

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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1.5 / 5 (2) May 08, 2009
How much do these 10 unique people generalize to the rest of the world?

How much fortune 500 companies generalize to the rest of the world?

This study is completely worthless.
3 / 5 (2) May 08, 2009
I find anyone with a "babyface" more threatening than a mature adult... particularly black men... but that's some personal trauma there...
not rated yet May 08, 2009
"If you're a white male, you can exhibit anger, pound your fist, make ultimatums ... African-Americans have to adopt a kinder, gentler style of leadership," Livingston said. "The same sorts of behaviors that are effective for white males can't be utilized effectively by black males."
Livingston is an ass. If I did what she said I would be fired as fast as if a black male did it. the dipwit has never worked in a company, so all her %u201Creality%u201D has been generated by the literature. Without empiricism from a real work environment and EXPERIENCE the science is inverting in upon itself and building a fantasy version of reality that more and more deviates from actual reality. the only thing that keeps it from going so farcically out of whack that we all could see the farce, is that they tie it to some appearance of reality that seems to have a correlation. The correlation probably is there, but the inanity is not in the measure of reality, its in the inverted conclusions they make that make no real sense in the real world. An even bigger problem is that others use their prounouncments under the assumption that they are more empirical than they are. they cant predict the sun coming up tomorrow if their lives depended on it as their work is so generally bad. heck they don%u2019t see that acting on their social policy amounts to mass experimentation on people by forcibly changing the circumstances of their life capriciously then seeing what will happen. if you did that to one person you would need all kinds of paper work, if you do that to whole populations and call it socialism, then your not mengele your god. But their actions amount to the same thing except to them its different cause they cant be the same cause they do it.
3 / 5 (2) May 08, 2009
heh what a crock of shit.
not rated yet May 08, 2009
What about the other study we get when search for "babyface"? I trust not too much money was wasted on this one, given what was already "studied". Didn't see much improvement, myself.
5 / 5 (1) May 08, 2009
For critical thinkers, I'm surprised the comments so far display a bias against criticizing blacks/whites for their observable facial features. Look only to Paul Ekman for objective evidence that many facial features of black people elicit fear responses in us. Why can't we make this claim? Is it too taboo? Are you ugly/mean looking and don't want to be told so?
not rated yet May 08, 2009
i agree with the concept of the study -- the general theory that black males have to have a set of tools that are disarming and non threatening to be successful -- i however disagree with the scientific method that was tried to substantiate such a truth/theory

I am a black male in a a moderately high position in my corporate stucture and i have observed that many of my black friends who are not as reserved with their exihibition of emotion especially anger find themselves limited in personal interaction -- people do not wish to associate with them -- or if only one such display of a 'loss of complete control' happens then they are remembered as a hothead and unable to keep their cool

I believe that the real issue is that in different cultures men learn to express anger differently. And that this expression is often learned from their fathers. However the type of anger that is accpetable to be expressed and the 'implied' intessity that is percieved comes from your view of that culture. -- Meaning I coming from a black cultural background am better able to distinguish the difference in a black man expressing anger and frustration to when he/they are wishing to express intimidation // On the same hand i have learned from personal experience I am a poor judge of anger coming from other races -Especially intimidation- I never fully realize that someone is trying to intimidate me and I think it is because the social cues and inuendos that would be present from someone from my same background are not their and they just express themselves differently.

_--FOR clarity // If you are black and grow up in a mostly white or mixed environment you will succeed in that environment because you have been encultrated into it and understand its subtle social rules

if you are a person from a mostly homogenous environment and only experience one culture you will not do well when placed into a heterogeneous environment you will have to learn to adapt and learn how to read into social cues that you have no prior experience with to excel in the same ways

--HOW do you test this. the very thought of the question is biased. The subject is taboo and the willing participants by definition are now suspect to further scrutiny of are they good representative canidates.... Socialogy makes a better area of philosophy than science -- you can never prove-- but you can find the numbers to persuade
5 / 5 (1) May 08, 2009
ooh, yessum massuh! I'sa gon run da company real good, youll see massuh, ses sir!

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