Does having a big neck make you a more protective dad? Experts think so

Judging the neck is an effective way of judging a man's physical prowess, which translates to their fathering ability, an expert explained

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You might not have thought about the link between a man’s fathering skills and his neck, but experts think there is one. In fact, researchers have found that fathers with bigger necks make for more protective dads.

How protective fathers are – or at least, how protective we perceive them to be over their children – can be affected by the size of their neck, also known as the trapezius muscle. While it might at first seem odd to make the link between the size of someone’s neck and their parenting abilities, researchers have explained the findings of the study.

“We’re talking about muscles that are both connected to the neck and visible from a face-to-face interaction,” Dr Mitch Brown, co-author of the study from the University of Arkansas, said. 

The study

Brown and his team asked 305 people to look at four computer-generated images of the same man, who had different neck muscles in each image.

Everything else about the images was the exact same, except for the neck size. The participants were asked to rate the man in the pictures on various attributes, including how protective and nurturing of a parent he would be.

The participants were not told how many photos of different people they would see to prevent them from guessing the study’s goal. The images were shown at random.


A larger trapezius resulted in the man being rated as a more protective father of his children. He was rated as worse at nurturing his child when his neck muscles were smaller, on average.

Brown explained the findings by saying that people have evolved to use a man’s neck as an efficient way of determining their physical prowess. He said our neck is “more reliable than the face and more immediate than the body as a cue” to tell us how strong someone was.

Another area of the neck’s muscle groups, the sternocleidomastoids, were also factored into Brown’s experiments. However, this had no real effect on people’s perceptions of the men’s fathering abilities. “The effects were specific to trapezi,” Brown added.

Judging from the neck is a ‘compromise’

According to researchers, our judgement of physical prowess becomes an indicator of whether a man will be either a protector or nurturer of children. Brown calls this judgement “body cues” which can be judged from various parts of the body, including the face.

Viewing a man’s whole body would have taken longer than judging from the neck, even though this technique would also be more reliable. While viewing the face would be quicker than looking at the neck, this method would be less reliable.

Brown said: “[Judging the neck] is a nice compromise between the immediacy of face perception and the accuracy of body perception. Body cues are less immediate when milliseconds could count, whereas faces may not be the most reliable.”