By Margarita Nahapetyan
It turns out that guys with beard seem to earn higher respect from other guys, but as to ladies, they find men with facial hair less attractive and prefer clean-shaven faces. That is a statement psychologists from New Zealand and Canada are doling out after a recent experiment where they studied how appealing masculine facial hair can be to women.
In order to figure out how having a beard affected perceptions of men's age, their attractiveness, social status and aggressiveness, psychologists Paul Vasey of Canada's University of Lethbridge and Barnaby Dixson of New Zealand's Victoria University of Wellington, recruited 19 fully bearded men - 10 of European descent and 9 from Samoa. All the men were photographed twice: once with a normal facial expression and another time with an angry face. The men then had their beards shaved, and the photographs were re-taken, again with each of the men with a normal face and an angry one.
In the next stage of the experiment, all these photographic images, with and without full beards (as they displayed neutral, smiling and angry facial expressions) were shown to about 200 women of European origin in New Zealand as well as Polynesian ladies in Samoa. The women were asked to rate which of the images they found more appealing and attractive: a group of photos of men with facial hair, or the same guys with shaven faces.
When all the responds were received and analyzed it was revealed that while beards may be very fashionable, stylish, and are probably a mark of macho males, they are not necessarily something that would appeal the ladies. Women said that, in their opinion, the clean-shaven faces were more attractive when compared to the hairy ones. Also, when other men were asked about their opinion, they said that men in the photos seemed much older and more aggressive when bearded than they did with their faces shaved. However, both women and men reported that facial hair added gravitas, with bearded faces perceived to have a higher social status and command more respect from other men.
Psychologist Paul Vasey said that the results seem to be very interesting because while the ladies from New Zealand may have been swayed by the current fashion in western movies and media for clean-shaven faces, magazines, billboards and cinemas are not that cultivated in Samoa. Even access to the Internet is quite a rare thing there. According to Nick Neave, a Northumbria University psychologist, it is often assumed that male characteristics are to do with women and women choosing them. The other way of looking at it is that men's faces and bodies are probably mostly created to ward off other males and what women prefer is neither here nor there, Dr. Neave said.
Masculine facial hair appears to increase the effectiveness of human aggressive facial expressions, say scientists noting that the results of this experiment are consistent with the hypothesis that the human beard evolved primarily via intrasexual selection between males and as part of complex facial communication demonstrating status and aggressiveness.
Psychologists published their findings in the journal Behavioral Ecology.