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Focal length influences facial Width-to-Height Ratio

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Abstract

Growing body of research suggests link between facial Width-to-Height Ratio (fWHR; bizygomatic width divided by upper facial height) and a wide range of assessed or observed characteristics and behaviour. However, these results were rather inconsistent and recent meta-analysis showed only weak effect. fWHR studies are predominantly based on photographs downloaded from free access sources. However, the methodology of downloaded photographs is usually unknown and presumably inconstant. Furthermore, photograph acquisition is affected by many factors and might be biased by head tilt or inconsistent photographing methods potentially increasing chance of biased results. Here we conducted a study to test the influence of different focal lengths on fWHR as measured from the photographs. Here we provide evidence that method of photographs acquisition affects fWHR in both males and females (stronger effect in males) with smaller facial Width-to-Height Ratio for faces captured with shorter focal lengths. Changes of facial dimensions are presumably result of different levels of perspective distortions produced by the focal lengths used. The faces captured with shorter focal length appear overall rounder and facial traits closer to camera bigger due to the vertically oblong shape of the human head. Our results suggest that methodology of photograph acquisition affects resulting product and in turn might be at least partly responsible for contradictory evidence (e.g., falsely negative results).
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