From the moment she first held his oversized head, Stortini’s mother knew he’d be trouble

Jonathan Willis
August 22 2008 08:16AM

Perhaps the funniest study I’ve heard about in some time has just been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. Brock University neuroscience researchers Justin Carre and Cheryl McCormick claim that the number of penalty minutes a player receives can be predicted by the size of his face.

I’m not even sure what to say to that. I always thought scientists were smart. I also thought that phrenology (a defunct field of study, once considered a science, by which the personality traits of a person were determined by "reading" bumps and fissures in the skull) was a thing of the past. Evidently, I was wrong.

From the Canwest news article:

The measurements, performed with the help of a digital ruler, compare the width of the face at the cheekbones with the height between the bottom of the eyebrows and the upper lip. An unusually wide male face has a ratio of about 2.3, while a relatively narrow face has a ratio of about 1.6.

According to Carre and McCormick, the Ottawa Senators had the strongest correlation between face size and penalty minutes of the six Canadian teams.

He shifted his gaze to the NHL, and calculated the facial ratio for the players on Canada's NHL teams using 2007–08 roster photos and compared the results with the average number of penalty minutes per game the player racked up for aggressive behaviour such as slashing, cross-checking, high-sticking, boarding, elbowing, checking from behind and fighting. Goalies were not analyzed. Of the 18 Senators, Carre looked at defenceman Mike Commodore, who has since left the Senators, with a facial ratio of about 1.6 and only about a minute per game in the penalty box, was at the low end of the scale. Right-winger Chris Neil, with a facial ratio of almost 2.4 and about three minutes per game in the box, was at the opposite end.

At this point, I’m afraid I need to question the methods used by the researchers. Leaving aside the somewhat incredible notion that a player’s facial size determines aggressiveness, the claim that Mike Commodore only averaged a minute in penalties per game is rather misleading. While it’s true that Commodore posted 26 PIM in 26 games in Ottawa, over the 2007–08 season he had 100 PIM in 77 games. Over his career (where he presumably used the same face for every team) he has 439 PIM in 296 games. One can almost hear the incredulity in the voice of the spokesman who responded for the Senators:

Brian Morris, a spokesman for the Senators, was at a loss for a comment on Carre's findings. It would be hard to draw conclusions based on facial measurements working from photographs alone, he suggested. "Seemingly, it's more of a theory than a scientific fact," he said.

No kidding, Brian. No kidding.

—Jonathan Willis is the owner of The Copper & Blue and is a regular OilersNation contributor.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 The Towel Boy
August 22 2008, 09:21AM
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Umm...wow...What a waste of science.

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#2 Greg MC
August 22 2008, 09:29AM
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That is why we pay taxes, to fund centers of higher learning so they can do this crap? Not cool.

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#3 1011011
August 22 2008, 12:07PM
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Can't they spend tax dollars to determine a method to clone super hot chicks so we all get one each??

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#4 Gnash
August 22 2008, 01:15PM
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I remember a great deal of scorn being heaped upon researchers at UWO for resurrecting old, flawed data to support the notion that intelligence correlated to brain size in 1992. The study became controversial to the general public because it also attempted to define races and correlate race to intelligence.

On a more amusing note, there are some bizarre reports that show up in scientific and medical journals. Consider the following: http://medind.nic.in/iae/t04/i1/iaet04i1p55.pdf

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#5 hockey fan
August 22 2008, 01:49PM
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pretty interesting study - really has nothing to do with phrenology but is based on the influence of testosterone on both development of face and brain structures involved with aggression.. someone should read the actual paper before making comments regarding the study (study freely avaiable at:

http://journals.royalsociety.org/content/h80173234257qq01/fulltext.pdf

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#6 Fiveandagame
August 22 2008, 01:56PM
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hmmmm. Based on this logic the Oilers should draft this girl. I mean she has a wide face.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_9MCIzKyUk&feature=related

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#7 Fiveandagame
August 22 2008, 02:02PM
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OR if we need an enforcer right now, this lady will do....once she gets out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdK6wigkLlo&feature=related

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#8 Jonathan
August 22 2008, 02:14PM
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pretty interesting study - really has nothing to do with phrenology but is based on the influence of testosterone on both development of face and brain structures involved with aggression.. someone should read the actual paper before making comments regarding the study

Well, no, it isn't phrenology, but it's pretty close. Arguing that because testosterone has an impact on both facial development and agression, aggression ought to be predictable by facial size is the same basic hogwash though.

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#9 hockey fan
August 22 2008, 02:31PM
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how do you explain the 8 positive correlations (1 with undergraduate men, 1 with varsity hockey players, 6 with NHL hockey teams).. seems like a robust finding however 'hogwash' the study seems?

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#10 DJ Spyn Cycle
August 22 2008, 02:49PM
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Correlation doesn't imply causation. I haven't read the study, because I'm too lazy, but did the researchers rule out other factors?

Sorry, I know I shouldn't criticize before reading the study... I'm just so lazy.

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#11 DJ Spyn Cycle
August 22 2008, 02:50PM
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actually, i don't think I should have even said "correlation does not imply causation."

I need a vacation.

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#12 Jonathan
August 22 2008, 02:59PM
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how do you explain the 8 positive correlations (1 with undergraduate men, 1 with varsity hockey players, 6 with NHL hockey teams).. seems like a robust finding however ‘hogwash’ the study seems?

Looking at their correlations, it seems to me that it wasn't really all that strong; take a look in particular at the Oilers graph and we see what a weak correlation there was.

Secondly, the report doesn't give enough information on methodology, and the information it does give is faulty, at least in the NHL cases. I mentioned above the error in calculating Commodore's PIM's, but a few additional errors are apparent:

1) The study used PIM's per game rather than PIM's per TOI; thus ice-time wasn't accounted. 2) The study balanced penalties in a funny way. For instance, a player getting a 2 minute minor for cross-checking recieves the same number of points to aggression as a defenseman who chips the puck over the defensive end boards.

I could go on, but not only is the study flawed, the idea behind it (predicting complex human behavious by looking at facial characteristics) seems obviously erroneous.

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#13 Wanye Gretz
August 22 2008, 03:17PM
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Nothing says hockey like medical research papers with low confidence intervals and poor sample sizing!

Wait.... who said that? It wasn't me. Was it?

DAMN YOU WILLIS, YOU ARE MAKING ME SMARTER!

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#14 Fiveandagame
August 22 2008, 03:19PM
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Don't worry Wayne, getting smarter by osmosis is unpossible...

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#15 hockey fan
August 22 2008, 04:13PM
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"I could go on, but not only is the study flawed, the idea behind it (predicting complex human behavious by looking at facial characteristics) seems obviously erroneous"

-in their article, the authors indicate that recent reports found that personality traits and other behaviours (cheating) could be predicted by features of the face.. is it that much more to ask whether a facial feature may provide information with respect to one's predisposition for aggression.. just a thought..

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#16 Kent W.
August 22 2008, 04:39PM
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The teams had an average correlation ranking of .30. The Senators scored the highest with .51, with the Montreal Canadiens next at .39, closely followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs at .37. The Vancouver Canucks rated .24, followed by the Edmonton Oilers at .20 and the Calgary Flames at .17

Overall correlation of 0.30? Hardly anything to hang your hat on. We don't know the sample size, degrees of freedom, etc. but there's barely a relationship there at all. Hell, they didn't even measure the guys heads, they just went by roster photos!

This study was published?

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#17 The Towel Boy
August 22 2008, 06:49PM
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Is there any relationship with cranium size and Corsi number? or EV/60? Lowetide?

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#18 MikeP
August 22 2008, 07:00PM
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That study's a lot better than some I've seen or heard of.

News at 11: taxpayer's dollars go to waste in academia. And on the highways. And into expense accounts for politicians. And... well, anyway, you get the drift.

(I'm typing this at a computer at a university that taxpayers give a great deal of money to. However, I'm balancing that by I'm actually working at 9pm on a Friday night, waiting for a machine to finish patching so I can go home.)

Jonathan: "I could go on, but not only is the study flawed, the idea behind it (predicting complex human behavious by looking at facial characteristics) seems obviously erroneous."

Predicting complex human behaviours by doing pretty much anything is difficult. That doesn't mean it's not worth trying. Why does it seem obviously erroneous?

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#19 Doogie2K
August 22 2008, 08:22PM
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This study was published?

There's some pretty Goddamned lazy reviewers out there.

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#20 Jonathan
August 22 2008, 08:45PM
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Predicting complex human behaviours by doing pretty much anything is difficult. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. Why does it seem obviously erroneous?

Because my face has very little to do with my behaviour.

One's a physical feature, while the other is highly dependant on learned behaviour.

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#21 Fiveandagame
August 22 2008, 10:02PM
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kay umm, can we talk about hockey or sumthin?

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#22 G.Brule
August 23 2008, 07:03PM
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It's kind of frustrating that you guys haven't done a write up on Captain Oiler's little hit and run incident in Vancouver. The twits on hfboards wont let us discuss it there. How about you let us discuss it here?

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#23 DJ Spyn Cycle
August 24 2008, 02:17PM
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Actually, the OilersNation team thought the story was ridiculous, pointless scandal-making on the part of the media. We weren't interested in perpetuating rumours relating to the story, especially given that the alleged suspect has been in contact with the bartender who owns the motor bike and they're settling the matter themselves.

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#24 Wanye Gretz
August 25 2008, 09:09AM
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In all honesty, I agree with Spyn Cycles. We felt bad for Moreau, who may have to rethink his chauffeurs when visiting Van City, but that is about it.

Headlines in National Newspapers that read "Moreau involved in a hit and run" is complete and utter horseshit. We are all for breaking scandalous news - even inventing it. But given the bad stretch Moreau has had recently, we felt it our duty to keep the Nation hit and run free.

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#25 MikeP
August 25 2008, 08:50PM
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Jonathan: so you're a free-willer?

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#26 Jonathan
August 25 2008, 08:58PM
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Jonathan: so you’re a free-willer?

Yes, but even if I didn't believe in free will it seems undeniable that there's a lot more involved in behaviour than simple genetics.

Beyond that, I remain a long ways from convinced that facial structure is a solid indicator of other characteristics.

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#27 MikeP
August 27 2008, 06:39PM
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"Yes, but even if I didn’t believe in free will it seems undeniable that there’s a lot more involved in behaviour than simple genetics."

Good thing they're not simple then, eh? :) The more we learn about human behaviour, the more we realize how little we still know.

I'm not (entirely) disagreeing with you; I just would like your reasoning stated beyond "well, obviously it's bunk."

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