Big Heads

“You will notice,” Jenny said, “that the serval differs from the caracal by the head size. Head size is a good indicator of where a carnivore stands in the food chain — either in terms of being a predator, or being prey.”

Rain had already drenched my leather coat. This was surely the worst kind of weather — 35 degrees and very wet. Why not snow? But no matter, I was feeling confirmed. Because, you see, Jenny, a tour guide at the Carnivore Preservation Trust, confirmed an existing theory of mine: that big heads matter. Big heads are not random. Big Heads are as much a blessing for their possessors as are those with height or with beautiful faces. You can pretend that they do not influence human perception. Your head is in the sand. In reality, people respond to them.

My favorite set of big heads are those people most like predators in human zoology — corporate executives. I can think of very few CEOs with small heads. I spend a lot of time looking at 10-Ks. All of those pictures of Ken Lewis, of Sanford Weill, of Richard Kovaciech — those are some big heads.

Even politicians have big heads. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Lyndon Johnson — some large brains. The club is not exclusive to women. Margaret Thatcher. Nevertheless, neither W nor some of his cabinet members (Michael Chertoff) have large brains. But look at the heads on Cheney and Rumsfeld!

Actually, a place where small heads seem to do alright is professional sports. But sports differ from most things in the extent to which they put people in level playing fields. Perceptions matter less in basketball. What matters is speed and agility.

Of the three greatest basketball players of my generation (Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan), only Magic had a big cranium. In baseball, head size is possibly altered by the presence of steroids. Barry Bonds has a huge skull. But it grew as he got older, and that growth is one of the things that makes people think he took performance enhancing drugs.

It is not that a big head makes you more threatening. Only that a big head gives a person some kind of unsaid edge. Its a matter of perception.

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4 Responses to “Big Heads”

  1. BuckeyeBandit Says:

    I had a childhood friend with a really, really, big head. He was teased enormously, as you can imagine. But I pretty much left him alone because his dad owned the only donut shop in town. And it was on the way home from school.

  2. Well, what happened to your childhood friend? Is he now the president of a large multinational corporation? Or is he involved in supersize menu distribution? Sounds like he had an edge up in the world to start, though. Maybe his dad had the first big head, getting those donuts and all…

  3. Adam Rust Says:

    “In my opinion, he’s the one to watch as an outsider in this race,” Korge told me. “He seems presidential. He’s a big guy.” (By this he meant, literally, that Warner is well over six feet tall, with a well-coiffed head that requires extra-large baseball caps.) “I think he has a presence. He’s very confident. He speaks very well, but he also can speak plainly to people.”

  4. Adam Rust Says:

    “That’s Governor Warner!” one woman said excitedly. “He’s so good-looking!”

    “He’s got a huge head!” her companion observed, craning her neck to see over the crowd as Warner signed autographs. “He sort of looks like Schwarzenegger.

    NYT, March 12, 2006. Sunday Magazine.

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