Looking for an older and dominant type

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He had been sworn in to the 62nd United States Congress, and was ready to embark on an illustrious career in politics. There was just one problem. Murray was 29 years old, making him the youngest representative at the time. He had been endowed with unusually boyish features, and styled his hair with a neat side parting — kind of like he was posing for a school photo. That same day, the chairman barked an order at him to fetch a book, after mistaking him for one of their House s — a role usually fulfilled by secondary-school students. But the best-studied route is having a baby face.

She explains that this usually includes a flat, round face, small jaw, button nose and wide doe-eyes, while more mature-looking individuals generally have smaller eyes, more angular cheekbones, larger noses and stronger brow-ridges. It's well-established that people with baby faces look young because they literally remind people of babies.

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Oddly, the effect applies no matter how old you actually are — or whether you have the plump, airbrushed skin of a model in a moisturiser advert or the slightly more weather-beaten visage of a lifelong sunworshipper. The facial structure of baby-faced people means they usually look young relative to others in the same age group, meaning that the associations this appearance comes with can still have an impact well into middle age and later life.

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Baby-faced people are also more likely to be found in certain jobs. In one study, they were more likely to be considered for a teaching position at a day-care centre that explicitly required candidates to be warm and submissive. For example, the same research that identified the bias in favour of baby-faced applicants for teaching positions also found that mature-looking people were generally preferred for the position of directorwhich called for dominance and the ability to make harsh decisions.

Perhaps as a result, people who look young for their age tend to have lower-status jobs instead which lack this kind of authority. Because of the way you're perceived in interviews and by peers, your features can inadvertently push you down a certain career path Credit: Alamy.

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Not only are people who look older more likely to be considered for high-status managerial roles, they're also deemed to be more suitable for jobs requiring a higher level of educational attainment. In one study, men deemed to have a baby face were most likely to have jobs as childcare workers, elementary school teachers, teacher aides and members of the clergy, and least likely to be judges, truck drivers, policemen and foremen.

For women, the most common careers were similar; elementary school teachers, kindergarten teachers, teaching aides and nursing aides, while those who were more mature-looking tended to hold jobs as computer systems analysts, law teachers, athletes and foremen. The effect is found among politicians as well as the leaders of Fortune companies; the latter generally have more dominant facial features than the general population or people in other high-status jobs, such as professors.

This appears to be based on pure perception, because companies with CEOs that look the part are not more likely to do better than others. However, there are exceptions. Surprisingly, black men heading companies at the same level are more likely to have baby-faced features.

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One idea is that this is down to implicit racism, which means that black men are generally seen as threatening, so having a baby face is an advantage because it softens these impressions. Other research has established that, consistent with the stereotype of baby-faced people being warm and trustworthy, the CEOs of non-profit charities are more likely to have this type of face.

On average, the ones with more powerful-looking CEOs raise less money. In the real world, the contrasting treatment of young-looking workers often ties in with how people are treated based on their actual age. In fact, while Western society has a well-documented culture of fetishising youth and marginalising the elderly, ageism against younger workers is increasingly being recognised.

Meanwhile in the US, there is currently no specific law to prevent prejudice on the basis of facial appearance, though there has been some debate about how this could be implemented. Russian university students are among the baby-faced who are widely considered more attractive — but their looks can mean they face specific challenges, too Credit: Alamy.

It's been suggested that part of the reason Asian people stereotypically look young for their age might be because baby-faced traits are more common in this group. The most obvious option is to change your appearance. Research has shown that something women look older when they wear makeup — though surprisingly, this is not true for older age groups — and adding makeup, trousers and jewellery can boost how competent a woman seems as a leader.

On the other hand, people view men with beards as older and higher status than those who are clean-shaven. They're also generally seen as more capable. The question is, do you want to alter how you look, to overcome the irrational biases of other people? As it happens, there is an alternative. To overcome this, Simpson tries to help her clients with what is within their control. Rather than dwelling on how the outside world views them, she tends to focus on helping them to understand where their anxieties are coming from.

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If you project confidence, you'll automatically seem more competent — regardless of what biases are really at work in the minds of your colleagues. How we work. How looking young can shape your career. Share using. By Zaria Gorvett 4th May Looking like a teenager who has accidentally wandered into the office can make or break your career.

Should we want to look youthful — or does it come with a cost? Too cute? Men deemed to have a baby face were most likely to have jobs as childcare workers, elementary school teachers, teacher aides and members of the clergy. Around the BBC.

Looking for an older and dominant type

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