Oct. 5, 2012 at 11:22 AM ET
Looking for an edge at work? Break out your razor. A new study says that men with shaved heads are perceived as more dominant, more masculine, and more suited for leadership roles.
The lead researcher, Albert Mannes at the Wharton School of Business, decided to go "bare up there" in his mid-thirties when he was starting to lose his hair. And people started treated him differently. He then designed a series of experiments to test what people really thought of guys with shaved heads.
In the first tests, he showed participants pictures of similar-looking men with shaved heads and those with hair. The men without hair rated statistically significantly higher for dominance. They were also rated as being 3 years older, and slightly less attractive.
To isolate the results further, Mannes devised a second experiment. He showed a panel pictures of men with hair. He also showed pictures of the same men with their hair Photoshopped out. The panel rated the men with shaved heads higher for dominance, confidence, masculinity, and leadership potential.
But get this: The panel also said the guys with shaved heads were an inch taller and could bench-press 13 percent more weight than the guys with full hair.
Remember, these are the same guys, just with their hair digitally erased.
The third and final test used no photographs. Just words. Mannes asked subjects to read a two-sentence description of a man and rate him on the same attributes as the second experiment. The paragraph was the same each time, with one difference, whether the man was described as having a "shaved head," "thinning brown hair," or "thick brown hair."
Even when responding to just the text, the guys with the shaved heads ranked higher on those alpha-dog traits.
However, there was a much smaller margin between the "shaved" head and the "thick brown hair." The greatest difference was between "shaved" and "thinning." Which means that men with all their hair looking to jump up the ladder shouldn't rush out and go under the clipper. Only men experiencing hair loss will have a total net benefit from shaving their head. Men with all their hair who shave it all off will lose more in social and psychological ranking than they gain, said Mannes.
So if you have luscious locks, don't let this study be the Delilah to your Samson. Keep your hair.
The big takeaway is that men who are losing their hair, Mannes said, "might better improve their well-being by finishing what Mother Nature has started," and shave it all off. It can give you social and psychological boost, and could open up pathways at work and in life.
This doesn't mean that men with shaved heads are in fact better leaders. Then again, perceptions can become reality.
"People may afford you opportunities to demonstrate your leadership if you look like someone who could be a leader. There is a reinforcement process that does happen with social perception," said Mannes. "How you're perceived affects how people treat you, which can alter your future."
But if you're experiencing male pattern baldness, a receding hairline, or thinning hair, Mannes said, "the simple act of shaving is a viable alternative to medical or surgical procedures, at a lower cost."
Best of all, if you try the look out and decide you don't like it, it's not irreversible.
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