Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Goldman Sachs head Lloyd Blankfein. Netscape founder Marc Andreessen. FUBU founder and “Shark Tank” investor Daymond John.
Lots of heavy hitters in business are bald guys.
And not just balding, but completely bare up there.
You could argue that it’s symptomatic of male privilege.
But according to research from the University of Pennsylvania, there’s something powerful about having a smooth dome.
In three experiments, researcher Albert Mannes found:
• “Men with shaved heads were rated as more dominant.”
• “Men whose hair was digitally removed were perceived as more dominant, taller, and stronger than their authentic selves.”
• “Men experiencing natural hair loss may improve their interpersonal standing by shaving.”
Now a data scientist for the US government, Mannes argues that the shaved-and-dominant link comes from cultural associations, in the same way that being tall and having a deep voice each signal dominance.
“In US society … shaved heads are often found on men in traditionally masculine professions,” he writes, “so dominance may emerge through stereotypical associations with these figures.”
When guys decide to shave off their hair, they’re tapping into a cultural history of close-cropped dominance, from Michael Jordan imposing his will on the basketball court to Bruce Willis saving the day on the silver screen.
In fact, Mannes says that he was inspired to do the research when people were more deferential to him after he shaved his head.
It’s not all good news, though: Mannes also discovered that while men with shaved heads are seen as more dominant, they’re also perceived as looking four years older than guys with hair. Not only that, but the bald dudes are found to be less attractive.
To get to those conclusions, Mannes did a number of clever experiments.
• In the first experiment, participants were shown photos of men with hair and men with shaved heads and asked to rate their levels of dominance and agreeability.
• In the second, participants were shown pictures of the same men with hair and with their hair digitally removed, so they looked shaved.
• In the third, participants read identical descriptions of men — except for whether they had thick hair, thinning hair, or shaved heads — and rated them on different aspects of personality, from dominance to agreeability to attractiveness.
The takeaways are practical: Shaving it off is probably a better bet for your well-being than watching it thin away.
“Instead of spending billions each year trying to reverse or cure their hair loss,” he writes, “the counterintuitive prescription of this research to men experiencing male pattern baldness is to shave their heads.”
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