The Big Forehead Mystery: Which Nationality Stands Out?

black and white picture of forehead with question marks overlaid main

Humans have developed many diverse bodily traits. A larger forehead in animals is beneficial, allowing more emotional communication and a bigger brain. Foreheads have sweat glands that allow us to cool off. Human heads have been growing in recent years.  The Mangbetu people of Central Africa are famous for their large foreheads. 

Evolution of Big Foreheads

Humans are a very diverse species. Different groups have certain distinctive physical characteristics such as the color of skin, hair type, height, and many other things

Scientists have often determined that physical traits are adaptions to specific environments.  We have larger foreheads than our humanoid ancestors. Why?  One reason appears to be that a larger forehead was helpful to communicate human empathy and other emotions. 

A bigger forehead also means a larger brain, which should help human development.  Heads are actually getting larger in part because modern medicine makes it easier for bigger-headed babies to survive childbirth.  We might have much bigger heads in the future.   

A big forehead today could be a sign of intelligence, confidence, and multitasker.  

Overall, studies have shown that genetics, hairline, brow appearance, and personal grooming habits will all contribute to the forehead shape and size. The skin of the forehead is also thicker than the rest of the face since we have more oil and sweat glands there.  

A large forehead therefore could be useful to handle a very warm climate.  

What Is Considered A Big Forehead?

A forehead that is bigger than that of around 70 percent of the population is considered to be  a big forehead.  This measures 2.8 inches in men and 2.4 inches in females.  

Both men and women have average foreheads about the size of four fingers.  Seems to work!

Changing Beauty Norms

Many women today are concerned about having too big of a forehead. They use various tricks involving makeup, hairstyles, and more to try to change them  Some use plastic surgery.  

Beauty standards change.  During Renaissance, high foreheads were considered a sign of beauty, and ladies plucked their hairlines back to emphasize them.  Queen Elizabeth of Shakespeare’s day had a noticeably high forehead.  Royalty clearly were fashion leaders of that day.  

The style is suggested by some of the paintings of the day.  Pale skin and a “Rubenesque” figure (chubby) were also positives.  Such traits were a sign of a life of leisure and plenty.  

The singer Rihanna is but one example of a beautiful and successful woman today with a big forehead.  So, even today, clearly many attractive people have big foreheads.  

Who Has Large Foreheads Today?

We saw above that humans as a whole have larger heads than in the past.  

Studies suggest that all ethnic groups are not growing in this fashion equally. Hispanics appear to have smaller heads than white and black individuals.  This might be a result of diet.  Asians overall are smaller than other groups.  This overall helps to narrow down the possibilities.

Personal surveys online have expressed some agreement that East Africans have large foreheads.  Somalis particularly have a reputation for having large foreheads but other East Africans, including Ethiopians, also reportedly have large foreheads.  

The Mangbetu people of Central Africa traditionally found large foreheads and elongated heads an ideal form of beauty.  They tightly bound a baby’s head to encourage the look.  A large forehead was a useful thing to have:

Women went to the fields with large carrying baskets hung over their shoulders and from their foreheads, and came back laden with bananas and wild plants, including forest leaves, roots, tubers, and mushrooms, as well as termites and other insects.

The Mangbetu people from my research have the biggest foreheads.  

Celebrating Diversity 

We should celebrate human diversity in all of its shapes and sizes. I appreciated the cover of the book Growing Up Muslim because it honored the different types of people who are Muslim. 

It is not too surprising in this country that promotes diversity that there is a day to celebrate people with large foreheads.  August 3rd is National Big Forehead Day.  Use it to honor big foreheads and be proud of yours.  It clearly proves you are a smart and compassionate person.  

The Mangbetu people might consider making it their national holiday.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.