Monday, December 06, 2010

Nod vs. Toss

Via Roissy, a study on head angles:

Our research investigated if looking at the face from different perspectives as a result of the height differential between men and women influenced perceived masculinity or femininity. The research found the way we angle our faces affects our attractiveness to the opposite sex.”

Men, typically taller than women, view a woman’s face from above; and women view men’s faces from below. Through a series of simulations, the research tested whether the angle of view was an important determinant of masculinity/femininity and attractiveness.

The research found that female faces are judged to be more feminine and more attractive when tilted forwards (simulating viewing from above), and less feminine when tilted backwards (simulating viewing from below). Conversely, male faces are judged more masculine when tilted backwards and less masculine when tilted forwards.

Back in the early 80s when I was a freshman in high school, I noticed that some male students, when they greeted people, would give a little toss of their head.  This “reverse nod” (up, then down) was remarkable because it ran counter to my own habit of nodding (down, then up) to people when I greeted them.  I don’t know how it got to be a habit, but it’s probably what I saw the adults around me do, and adults in movies and TV do, rather than something that somebody told me I was supposed to do.

Because the toss was new, and because the upperclassmen did it, I associated it with being “cool”, and tried to emulate it.  I may have had a dim sense of the biomechanics, but I lacked the analytical tools and vocabulary to appreciate what was at stake.  But as much as I practiced the toss in front of a mirror, I almost never remembered to deploy it in an actual social situation, and eventually I gave up.

As I have moved from youth to adulthood, I have observed others using the toss with diminishing frequency, although this could be me just not paying attention anymore.  But it’s easy to see how the study cited above maps onto the implications of the head toss.  The question I have now is, how did everyone else seem to understand the importance of the toss vs. the nod sufficiently to adopt it for themselves?  Why didn’t I get that memo?

1 comment:

cephalicfurrow said...

Probably simple induction. Pride and superciliousness is what's cool, sticking your nose in the air looks proud; hence, toss.