What lies beneath the face of aggression?

Published

Journal Article

Recent evidence indicates that a sexually dimorphic feature of humans, the facial width-to-height ratio (FWHR), is positively correlated with reactive aggression, particularly in men. Also, predictions about the aggressive tendencies of others faithfully map onto FWHR in the absence of explicit awareness of this metric. Here, we provide the first evidence that amygdala reactivity to social signals of interpersonal challenge may underlie the link between aggression and the FWHR. Specifically, amygdala reactivity to angry faces was positively correlated with aggression, but only among men with relatively large FWHRs. The patterns of association were specific to angry facial expressions and unique to men. These links may reflect the common influence of pubertal testosterone on craniofacial growth and development of neural circuitry underlying aggression. Amygdala reactivity may also represent a plausible pathway through which FWHR may have evolved to represent an honest indicator of conspecific threat, namely by reflecting the responsiveness of neural circuitry mediating aggressive behavior.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Carré, JM; Murphy, KR; Hariri, AR

Published Date

  • February 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 224 - 229

PubMed ID

  • 22198969

Pubmed Central ID

  • 22198969

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1749-5024

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1749-5016

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/scan/nsr096

Language

  • eng