International Journal of Internet Science

A peer reviewed open access journal for empirical findings, methodology, and theory of social and behavioral science concerning the Internet and its implications for individuals, social groups, organizations, and society.

Volume 2, Issue 1 (2007)

The Face-ism Effect in the Internet Differences in Facial Prominence of Women and Men
Ursula Szillis, Dagmar Stahlberg
University of Mannheim, Germany

Abstract: Archer and colleagues (1983) showed that in a variety of media, such as journals, works of art, or amateur drawings, men are depicted with greater facial prominence than women, i.e., with more focus on the face. Additionally, they showed that people depicted with greater focus on the face are evaluated as being more intelligent, assertive, and ambitious than the same people depicted with more focus on the body. This phenomenon is called face-ism. More than twenty years later, two content analyses explore whether this difference in the portrayal of men and women is still alive and can also be found in new media, especially the Internet. Study 1 compares Internet photos of male and female university professors from twelve German universities. Study 2 examines Internet pictures of female and male members of the German parliament. Results of both studies show that male professors and male politicians are depicted with significantly greater facial prominence than female professors and female politicians. Additionally, younger female politicians are depicted with less facial prominence than older female politicians, whereas male politicians are depicted with higher facial prominence irrespective of their age. Results of both studies contrast with results of previous content analyses, which showed no sex differences concerning facial prominence when both men and women occupied high status positions. Implications of and suggested explanations for the observed differences are discussed.

Keywords: Face-ism, gender stereotypes, politicians, illustration, Internet

pdf Download full paper