Perceptions of dominance following glimpses of faces and bodies

Nicholas O. Rule, Reginald B. Adams, Nalini Ambady, Jonathan B. Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dominance is one of the most ecologically important social traits that humans express and perceive. Here, we examined perceivers' capacity to judge dominance under physical and temporal constraints. In study 1, dominant, neutral, and submissive poses of otherwise non-expressive faces and impoverished facial outlines were judged after exposure for 27 ms, 40 ms, 94 ms, or at a self-paced rate (approximately 2000 ms). Perceivers' judgments of dominance were significantly more accurate than chance guessing for exposures of 40 ms and greater, with no significant increase in accuracy given additional viewing time. In study 2, we replaced faces with bodies and figural outlines of bodies. Perceivers' judgments were again better than chance for exposures of 40 ms and greater, but significant increases in accuracy were observed for durations of 94 ms and at a self-paced rate. Finally, in study 3, we combined studies 1 and 2 to allow comparisons across stimuli. Results showed that judgments of dominance from the faces were significantly more accurate than were those of the bodies, and judgments of full stimuli were more accurate than were those of outlines. These data extend our knowledge of the efficient and accurate perception of social cues from nonverbal behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)687-706
Number of pages20
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2012


  • Accuracy
  • Dominance
  • Ecological theory
  • Face perception
  • Person perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Artificial Intelligence


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