Perceived Aggressiveness Predicts Fighting Performance in Mixed-Martial-Arts Fighters

Vít Třebický, Jan Havlíček, S. Craig Roberts, Anthony C. Little, Karel Kleisner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Citations (SciVal)


Accurate assessment of competitive ability is a critical component of contest behavior in animals, and it could be just as important in human competition, particularly in human ancestral populations. Here, we tested the role that facial perception plays in this assessment by investigating the association between both perceived aggressiveness and perceived fighting ability in fighters' faces and their actual fighting success. Perceived aggressiveness was positively associated with the proportion of fights won, after we controlled for the effect of weight, which also independently predicted perceived aggression. In contrast, perception of fighting ability was confounded by weight, and an association between perceived fighting ability and actual fighting success was restricted to heavyweight fighters. Shape regressions revealed that aggressive-looking faces are generally wider and have a broader chin, more prominent eyebrows, and a larger nose than less aggressive-looking faces. Our results indicate that perception of aggressiveness and fighting ability might cue different aspects of success in male-male physical confrontation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1664-1672
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • aggressive behavior
  • aggressiveness
  • competition
  • evolutionary psychology
  • face
  • face perception
  • facial features
  • fighting ability
  • geometric morphometrics
  • mixed martial arts
  • perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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