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The Heart Beat The Heart Beat blog

Are 'Macho' Men More Loyal?

Good news for wide-faced guys.

By Kristin Wong Jun 6, 2012 3:54PM

Photo: Digital Vision/Getty ImagesMacho guys are really having a good year. The general stereotype of "masculine" looking men is that they're aggressive, thrill-seeking bad boys—not exactly the type that would win your mother's approval. But science has discovered that these testosterone-laden lads may actually be more cooperative, loyal, and responsible than previously thought.

You're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but sometimes science makes it difficult with its studies linking personality to face shape, body type, symmetry, etc. Past research has shown that men with "masculine" faces—wide, prominent jaw lines and small eyes—are often more aggressive because they have higher levels of testosterone.

"Men with wider faces have typically been portrayed as 'bad to the bone," Dr. Michael Stirrat of the University of St. Andrews said in a statement.

He thought there was more to it than that. So he and his colleagues commissioned a study with University of St. Andrews students. Dr. Stirrat gave the students money to play a group game in which they could choose to either freeload from other players or risk their own money to benefit the group as a whole. Half of the students were told that their winnings would be compared with a rival school. The others were told their winnings would be compared with other groups from St. Andrews. Stirrat found that the wider the man's face, the more likely he was to gamble his own money to benefit the group as a whole in order to beat out the rival.

"It was surprising that our predictions were confirmed," Dr. Stirrat reported. "When we mentioned Edinburgh University, our St Andrews participants with wider faces were more cooperative than the other men."

It should be mentioned that the guys were less cooperative when the rivalry wasn't mentioned. But when a third party was involved, the dudes seemed to be self-sacrificing in order to benefit their home team. That loyalty makes macho men sound especially appealing when it comes to dating.

And that's not the only alluring personality trait machos may possess. Another recent study involving "masculine" men found that they're also more responsible in the bedroom. Sari van Anders, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist at the University of Michigan, found that men with higher testosterone levels had more positive attitudes about safe sex. They were also more likely to have protected sex with their partners.

"There's this body of research showing that people often view safer sex behaviors and people who engage in them in a somewhat negative light," van Anders said.

She explained that men with higher testosterone levels are generally seen as risk takers, and her study seemed to contradict that.

"One of the things that is interesting about these results is that they're one of the first to demonstrate a link between higher testosterone and less risk-taking in any domain."

But before you go out looking for the widest-faced man you can find, wait. Because another study found that wide-faced men were three times more likely to lie and about nine times more likely to cheat than narrow-faced men. Not exactly the qualities you want in a partner.

Professor Michael Haselhuhn of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee commissioned the study and said the "findings suggest that some men are simply predisposed to act unethically…"

Some researchers debated the research; others said it mirrored their own findings.

Overall, these contradictions seem to show that, no matter how much research is conducted, people are too complex to be put into one box, no matter how wide their faces are.

But what do you think? Have you dated a macho guy? How did he treat you? 

Photo: Digital Vision/Getty Images
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