Do people find pointy chins threatening?

Pointy chins and downward eyebrows - characteristics often used to portray cartoon villains - can make people threatened, a new study has found. Published in Emotion, a journal of the American Psychological Association, the research showed a downward triangle is often perceived to be menacing.

Investigators from the University of Warwick revealed these features can make a person's threat instinct kick in, in much the same way as viewing a negative face in a crowd.

Dr Derrick Watson of the learning institute explained simple geometric shapes can be effective at capturing a person's attention.

He explained this is the case especially when the shape of facial structures are positive or negative, adding: "Our study shows that downward pointing triangles in particular convey negative emotions and we can pick up on them quickly and perceive them as a threat."

Dr Elisabeth Blagrove observed the classic depiction of the cartoon baddie could be one reason why people associate these features with feeling threatened.

However, Professor Lorraine Sherr, a Chartered Psychologist from Royal Free & University College Medical School, cautions against overgeneralisation:

"Humans are very skilled at reading facial expressions and it may simply be that downward pointing eyebrows, are aligned to frowning which in turn is aligned to negative or questioning emotions. It may not be the simple physical atiribute, but the complex emotion that the reader perceives behind the attribute.

"Cartoons are often effective because of their knack of exaggerating features. Yet put a smile on the face with these attributes and impressions can change. Perhaps the next phase in the research?"