Sex Roles

, Volume 77, Issue 9–10, pp 604–614 | Cite as

Face-ism from an International Perspective: Gendered Self-Presentation in Online Dating Sites Across Seven Countries

  • Michael PrielerEmail author
  • Florian Kohlbacher
Original Article


The present study analyzed whether the face-ism phenomenon, which argues that the media visually depict men with more facial prominence compared to women (whereas women are shown with greater body prominence), exists for self-selected photographs worldwide. Based on a content analysis of a sample of 6286 profile photos drawn from online dating sites in seven countries (Austria, Denmark, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States) in 2013, we did not find any overall gender differences in facial prominence. However, further analysis showed gender differences in facial prominence for certain age groups: whereas there were no gender differences in the 25–41 year-old age group, young women between 18 and 24 had a higher facial prominence than men, and men older than 41 had higher facial prominence than women. These changes by age are driven by a pattern wherein facial prominence generally remains stable for men, but declines for women with age. In short, older users follow more traditional gender depictions in accordance with the face-ism phenomenon, whereas among younger people, women sport an even higher facial prominence than men do. In contrast to this significant interaction between gender and age in facial prominence, we found no significant interaction between culture (as measured by Hofstede’s masculinity dimension) and gender, which indicates that culture plays no discernible role in gender differences in facial prominence, possibly because macro-level sexism (Hofstede’s masculinity dimension) and micro-level sexism (photographs of individuals online) are not the same.


Face-ism Facial prominence Online dating sites Gender stereotypes Hofstede’s cultural dimensions Cross-cultural study 



This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant funded by the Korean Government (NRF-2013S1A5A8020741).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Archer, D., Iritani, B., Kimes, D. D., & Barrios, M. (1983). Face-ism: Five studies of sex differences in facial prominence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 725–735. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.45.4.725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (2009). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant & M. B. Oliver (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 94–124). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Bem, D. J. (1967). Self-perception: An alternative interpretation of cognitive dissonance phenomena. Psychological Review, 74, 183–200. doi: 10.1037/h0024835.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bornholt, J. J., Goodnow, J. J., & Cooney, G. H. (1994). Influences of gender stereotypes on adolescents' perceptions of their own achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 31, 675–692. doi: 10.3102/00028312031003675.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carter, C., & Steiner, L. (2004). Introduction to critical readings: Media and gender. In C. Carter & L. Steiner (Eds.), Critical readings: Media and gender (pp. 1–10). Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Collins, R. L. (2011). Content analysis of gender roles in media: Where are we now and where should we go? Sex Roles, 64, 290–298. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9929-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cooley, S. C., & Smith, L. R. (2013). Presenting me! An examination of self-presentation in US and Russian online social networks. Russian Journal of Communication, 5, 176–190. doi: 10.1080/19409419.2013.805671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Copeland, G. A. (1989). Face-ism and primetime television. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 33, 209–214. doi: 10.1080/08838158909364075.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Costa, M., & Bitti, P. E. R. (2000). Face-ism effect and head canting in one's own and others' photographs. European Psychologist, 5, 293–301. doi: 10.1027//1016-9040.5.4.293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ellison, N., Heino, R., & Gibbs, J. (2006). Managing impressions online: Self-presentation processes in the online dating environment. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, 415–441. doi: 10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00020.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Emrich, C. G., Denmark, F. L., & Den Hartog, D. N. (2004). Cross-cultural differences in gender egalitarianism: Implications for societies, organizations, and leaders. In R. J. House, M. Javidan, V. Gupta, P. Dorfman, & P. J. Hanges (Eds.), Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies (pp. 343–394). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Fiore, A. T., & Donath, J. S. (2005). Homophily in online dating: When do you like someone like yourself? In CHI EA '05 CHI '05 Extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1371–1374). New York: Association for Computing Machinery.Google Scholar
  13. Fiore, A. T., Taylor, L. S., Mendelsohn, G. A., & Hearst, M. (2008). Assessing attractiveness in online dating profiles. In Proceeding of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 797–806). New York: Association for Computing Machinery.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (2013). Social cognition: From brains to culture. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T.-A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women's lived experiences and mental health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21, 173–206. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1997.tb00108.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Goffman, E. (1976). Gender advertisements. New York: Harper & Row.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hall, C. C. I., & Crum, M. J. (1994). Women and "body-ism" in television beer commercials. Sex Roles, 31, 329–337. doi: 10.1007/BF01544592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hall, J. A., Park, N., Song, H., & Cody, M. J. (2010). Strategic misrepresentation in online dating: The effects of gender, self-monitoring, and personality traits. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 27, 117–135. doi: 10.1177/0265407509349633.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hancock, J. T., & Toma, C. L. (2009). Putting your best face forward: The accuracy of online dating photographs. Journal of Communication, 59, 367–386. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.2009.01420.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hausmann, R., Tyson, L. D., Bekhouche, Y., & Zahidi, S. (2014). Global Gender Gap Report. Retrieved from
  21. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis. New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hayes, A. F., & Cai, L. (2007). Using heteroskedasticity-consistent standard error estimators in OLS regression: An introduction and software implementation. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 709–722. doi: 10.3758/BF03192961.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hayes, A. F., & Matthes, J. (2009). Computational procedures for probing interactions in OLS and logistic regression: SPSS and SAS implementations. Behavior Research Methods, 41, 924–936. doi: 10.3758/BRM.41.3.924.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Hitsch, G. J., Hortaçsu, A., & Arieli, D. (2010). What makes you click? Mate preferences in online dating. Quantitative Marketing and Economics, 8, 393–427. doi: 10.1007/s11129-010-9088-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  26. House, R. J., Hanges, P. J., Javidan, M., Dorfman, P. W., & Gupta, V. (Eds.). (2004). Culture, leadership, and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Kirkman, B. L., Lowe, K. B., & Gibson, C. B. (2006). A quarter century of Culture’s Consequences: A review of empirical research incorporating Hofstede's cultural values framework. Journal of International Business Studies, 37, 285–320. doi: 10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8400202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Konrath, S., & Schwarz, N. (2007). Do male politicians have big heads? Face-ism in online self-representations of politicians. Media Psychology, 10, 436–448. doi: 10.1080/15213260701533219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Konrath, S., Au, J., & Ramsey, L. R. (2012). Cultural differences in face-ism: Male politicians have bigger heads in more gender-equal cultures. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36, 476–487. doi: 10.1177/0361684312455317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krippendorff, K. (2013). Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  31. Lacy, S., Watson, B. R., Riffe, D., & Lovejoy, J. (2015). Issues and best prectices in content analysis. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 92, 791–811. doi: 10.1177/1077699015607338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lammers, H. B., & Lammers, M. L. (1993). Face-ism in photographs: Sex and status differences. In W. F. Van Raaij & G. J. Bamossy (Eds.), European advances in consumer research (pp. 444–448). Provo: Association for Consumer Research.Google Scholar
  33. Livingstone, R. W. (2004). Demystifying the nonconscious: Unintentional discrimination in society and the media. In J. D. Williams, W.-N. Lee, & C. P. Haugtvedt (Eds.), Diversity in advertising: Broadening the scope of research directions (pp. 59–73). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  34. Mager, J., & Helgeson, J. G. (2011). Fifty years of advertising images: Some changing perspectives on role portrayals along with enduring consistencies. Sex Roles, 64, 238–252. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9782-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Matthes, J., Prieler, M., & Adam, K. (2016). Gender-role portrayals in television advertising across the globe. Sex Roles, 75, 314–327. doi: 10.1007/s11199-016-0617-y.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  36. Matthews, J. L. (2007). Hidden sexism: Facial prominence and its connections to gender and occupational status in popular print media. Sex Roles, 57, 515–525. doi: 10.1007/s11199-007-9276-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nigro, G. N., Hill, D. E., Gelbein, M. E., & Clark, C. L. (1988). Changes in the facial prominence of women and men over the last decade. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 12, 225–235. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1988.tb00938.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Nisbett, R. E. (2003). The geography of thought: How Asians and Westerners think differently ... and why. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  39. Paek, H.-J., Nelson, M. R., & Vilela, A. M. (2011). Examination of gender-role portrayals in television advertising across seven countries. Sex Roles, 64, 192–207. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9850-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Park, M., & Chesla, C. (2007). Revisiting Confucianism as a conceptual framework for Asian family study. Journal of Family Nursing, 13, 293–311. doi: 10.1177/1074840707304400.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Pickering, M. (2001). Stereotyping: The politics of representation. New York: Palgrave.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Prieler, M., Ivanov, A., & Hagiwara, S. (2015). Gender representations in East Asian advertising: Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea. Communications & Society, 28(1), 27–41. doi: 10.15581/–41.Google Scholar
  43. Rainey, L. D. (2010). Confucius & Confucianism: The essentials. Malden: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schroeder, J. E., & Borgerson, J. L. (2005). An ethics of representation for international marketing communication. International Marketing Review, 22, 578–600. doi: 10.1108/02651330510624408.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schwarz, N., & Kurz, E. (1989). What's in a picture? The impact of face-ism on trait attribution. European Journal of Social Psychology, 19, 311–316. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.2420190405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith, L. R., & Cooley, S. C. (2012). International faces: An analysis of self-inflicted face-ism in online profile pictures. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 41, 279–296. doi: 10.1080/17475759.2012.728771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smith, A., & Duggan, M. (2013). Online dating & relationships. Retrieved from
  48. Sparks, G. G. (2006). Media effects research: A basic overview (2nd ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  49. Sparks, G. G., & Fehlner, C. L. (1986). Faces in the news: Gender comparisons of magazine photographs. Journal of Communication, 36, 70–79. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1986.tb01451.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Spiller, S. A., Fitzsimons, G. F., Lynch, J. G., & McClelland, G. H. (2013). Spotlights, floodlights, and the magic number zero: Simple effects tests in moderated regression. Journal of Marketing Research, 50, 277–288. doi: 10.1509/jmr.12.0420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Szillis, U., & Stahlberg, D. (2007). The face-ism effect in the internet: Differences in facial prominence of women and men. International Journal of Internet Science, 2, 3–11.Google Scholar
  52. Tifentale, A., & Manovich, L. (2015). Selfiecity: Exploring photography and self-fashioning in social media. In D. M. Berry & M. Dieter (Eds.), Postdigital aesthetics: Art, computation and design (pp. 109–122). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Toma, C. L., & Hancock, J. T. (2010). Looks and lies: The role of physical attractiveness in online dating self-presentation and deception. Communication Research, 37, 335–351. doi: 10.1177/0093650209356437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Toma, C. L., Hancock, J. T., & Ellison, N. B. (2008). Separating fact from fiction: An examination of deceptive self-presentation in online dating profiles. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1023–1036. doi: 10.1177/0146167208318067.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2007). Who visits online dating sites? Exploring some characteristics of online daters. Cyberpsychology & Behavior, 10, 849–852. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.9941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Whitty, M. T. (2008). Revealing the "real" me, searching for the "actual" you: Presentations of self on an internet dating site. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1707–1723. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2007.07.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Williams, J. E., & Best, D. L. (1990). Measuring sex stereotypes: A multinational study. Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  58. Wondergem, T. R., & Friedlmeier, M. (2012). Gender and ethnic differences in smiling: A yearbook photographs analysis from kindergarten through 12th grade. Sex Roles, 67, 403–411. doi: 10.1007/s11199-012-0158-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Zuckerman, M. (1986). On the meaning and implications of facial prominence. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 10, 215–229. doi: 10.1007/BF00987481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zuckerman, M., & Kieffer, S. C. (1994). Race differences in face-ism: Does facial prominence imply dominance? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 86–92. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.66.1.86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Media and CommunicationHallym UniversityChuncheonSouth Korea
  2. 2.The Economist Intelligence Unit, Economist Corporate Network North AsiaTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations