Social status hierarchies are a universal principle of organization in human societies. Status judgments are often influenced by perceptions of the face and posture. Two important nonverbal cues of social status are head postures and eye gaze. Prior research has shown contradictory results and little is known about the interaction of these two cues. Study 1 investigated how eye gaze (direct vs. averted) and head postures (bowed vs. neutral vs. raised) impact judgments of dominance and physical strength. Judgments of dominance were influenced more than judgments of physical strength. Furthermore, raised heads implied dominance and strength, but in contrast to common assumptions, a bowed head conveyed dominance if the eyes gazed at the observer. Study 2 showed that bowed heads with direct gaze conveyed anger, potentially explaining the increased judgments of dominance. Taken together, the results show that head posture and gaze interactively modulated status-related traits and emotions, namely, dominance, strength, and anger, and help clarify prior incompatible findings on head postures and eye gaze.
This is a pre-print of an article published in Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10919-018-0276-5