Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1697:
Facial Hair, Politics and Athletes
Phil Humber Pitches a Perfect Game

Phil Humber of the Chicago White Sox pitched a perfect game yesterday in a 4-0 win against the Seattle Mariners. It was just the 21st such game in the history of the major leagues. Facial hair on a politician is a bad thing - but on pitchers - a beard, mustache or goatee is a distinct advantage. The last U.S. President to have any facial hair was elected in 1908 (William Taft).

See also:
Secret # 337: Facial Hair, Trust and Politics.

Secret # 39: Facial Hair and Perception

Percentages of Men with facial hair:

U.S. Senators - 1.2%
State Governors - 6.8%
U.S. House of Representatives - 10.8%
U.S. Male Population - 33%
World Male Population - 50%
Perfect Game Pitchers in the last 40 years - 83%

The higher the political office, the less electable are men who have facial hair. Voters strongly prefer men who are clean shaven - for this sends nonverbal signal of trust. Pre-verbal children will even prefer their fresh shaven fathers over the previously recent "hairy" versions. Somewhere deep in our body language instinct - is embedded a relative distrust of those men with facial hair.

Photographs of freshly-arrested men have a much higher percentage of beards, goatees and mustaches as well.

Jurors also tend to convict at a higher rate when men have hair on their faces.

Success in sports is not based on trust though - it's largely based on mindset and intimidation. In many sports, it's to your advantage to look mean, scruffy and unkempt. This is certainly true of baseball pitchers.

I wish I had been in Seattle yesterday watching your fastball. Congratulations Phil Humber - on your perfect game and your new baby.