New Research Explores The Social Information Conveyed By Facial Hair
Perhaps more than any other trait, beards are perceived as a sign of gruff manliness. They visibly differentiate men from females, mask emotions, provide warmth, and shield skin from the elements.
While most evolutionary theorists believe beards evolved as a display of dominance, masculinity, and aggression, what signals do they send in the modern world? And, specifically, what social information does a beard convey?
This was the question a group of Australian researchers explored in a new paper appearing in this month’s issue of Psychological Science. First, they asked 227 participants to look at a series of photographs of people’s faces and rate, as quickly as they could, whether the face displayed happiness or anger. The photographs were of four kinds of facesclean-shaven men displaying happiness, clean-shaven men displaying anger, bearded men displaying happiness, and bearded men displaying anger. Importantly, to avoid any experimental bias, photos of the same men were used in all conditions. The researchers write, “The men were photographed with happy and angry expressions when clean-shaven and again with a full beard . This eliminated the influence of possible systematic facial-structure or expression differences between men who choose to be bearded and those who choose to be clean-shaven.”
Are Mustaches The Last Resort
If you are considering growing a mustache to give yourself a better level of attractiveness, dont! Mustachioed men are considered less desirable and also less intelligent compared to their bearded brothers. In previous eras it has been shown mustaches have been a fashionable asset to help attract a partner more so than beards, but in the current climate of the many styles and designs being the norm for facial hair, the lone mustache is projected to be a less alluring feature.
To sum up, beards continue to be the choice of many, for both men and their long or short term partners who choose such distinguished gentlemen. We know beards are in vogue and as a result the clean shaven are often thought to be less attractive, less masculine and, more surprisingly, less intelligent, especially among lower social status communities.
However, fashions change and of course its possible that one day the clean shaven look will be the most stylish to have, but for the moment, from short stubble to the long full beard, exhibit that beard and be the man you, and your partner, always dreamed of!
The Science Of Beards
As World Beard Day comes around again, and the planet gets ready to celebrate fabulous facial hair, here are a few things that scientists have discovered about beards.
Beards are undeniably manly
Multiple studies have found that men look more masculine, dominant, aggressive, and strong when they wear a beard. Indeed, men also report feeling more masculine when they have facial hair.
Research has also shown that men who choose to be bearded tend to have higher testosterone levels than those who choose to be clean-shaven, and they are more likely to be hostile sexists, in other words, to favor the patriarchy and male dominance, and to think that women belong in the kitchen. These men may be using beards to reinforce gender roles.
Beards may be used to intimidate rivals
In his 1970s book, Evolution of human threat display organs, Professor R. D. Guthrie theorized that beards could be used to intimidate male rivals by increasing perceptions of the size of the jaw and enhancing aggressive and threatening jaw-thrusting behaviors. Additionally, research has revealed that people can recognize expressions of anger faster on a bearded face than on a clean-shaven face, but are slower to recognize expressions like happiness or sadness.
Beards add maturity
Beards may add sex appeal
Beards are not popular with young children
Beards are good for your health
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Facial Hair And Employment
Was it Paul Kinseys beard that kept Don from recruiting him to Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce?
So lets talk about a key concern for a lot of men: can you get a job with a beard? Can you keep a job with a beard? Will a beard get you fired even if its not officially against company policy?
These are common concerns, and theyre not entirely misplaced. Employment and performance reviews are as much about unwritten rules as they are about written ones, and you are probably going to come across someone who has strong feelings about what is or isnt appropriate beardedness at some point in your life.
So whats the long and short on beards in the workplace?
A few scientific studies have looked specifically at employers when examining perceptions of facial hair. A 1990 survey of managers actually demonstrated a preference for beards. The participants looked at ink sketches of both bearded and clean-shaven men, and the managers rated bearded men as having a better personality, appearance, competence, and composure than unbearded men.
That said, the men and women in that study were looking at idealized sketches. Beards were likely to look fuller, neater, and more perfect than they often do in person, so take it as an endorsement of very well-maintained beards and nothing more.
The takeaway: for job interviews, you need either a clean shave or a very neat beard. Make sure the outlines are razor-sharp if you go bearded.
Final Thoughts On Why Beards Make Men Feel More Attractive
A beard is just facial hair that may or may not be neatly shaped. However, to men, its like a superpower. It seems to increase their masculinity, strength, success, confidence, and attractiveness.
A lot of the benefits of having a beard really come from societys views on men with beards and how society treats men. That means that its not the beard itself, but the way people react to it. Maybe one day, opinions on having a beard will change, and they will fall out of style. However, today is not that day.
This doesnt mean that every man should run out and grow a beard. This article was only intended to shed some light on how growing facial hair can make a man feel. For clean-shaved men, hope is not lost. Most women love clean-shaved men as much as they love a man with a beard. Clean-shaven men are successful, powerful, and attractive as well.
A beard is only an icon, not a determining factor in a persons life. However, its trendy right now, just like it has been in the past. That trend is probably not going away any time soon, so bearded men will continue feeling incredibly attractive and on top of the world.
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But Dont Think Itll Help You With The Ladies
At the urging of his mother and also the president, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has shaved the much-GIFd beard he sprouted last month. Carney may have given in to the razor, but more and more public figures seem to be forgoing it: Secretary of State John Kerry, Obama speech writer Cody Keenan andbreaking news alertNew Republic Editor Frank Foer.
Facial hair can radically alter the way a man looks, whether its a little stubble or a full-on beard. Carneys and Kerrys beards have been endlessly debated on Twitter and blogsDo they convey authority? Are they hiding secrets?but psychologists can tell us how we really perceive men with beards, and why men evolved to grow extraneous hair on their faces in the first place.
Why do men have beards?
Beards signal confidence because theyre disadvantageous in fights
In their 1997 book The Handicap Principle, Israeli physiologist Avishag Zahavi and her evolutionary biologist husband Amotz proposed that beards are a costly signal of male competitive ability, since they can easily be grabbed by rivals during fights. According to this theory, a man with a full beard is advertising his confidence in his own fitness: He thinks he can beat his competitors even with the handicap of the beard.
Beards advertise mens health
Beards might protect the face from UV rays
How are bearded men perceived?
Bearded men seem more aggressive
People think bearded men have higher social status
Beards can add a few years
But they might
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Moreover, the lack of consistent results among women underscores just how context-dependent ratings of attractiveness can be. In Poland, for instance, research has found that women prefer clean-shaven faces to faces with stubble and full beards. Other research in the United Kingdom has found British women to prefer light stubble over full beards and clean-shaven faces.
In this study, the researchers recruited 285 women and 287 men to take part in a short survey. The researchers asked women to indicate whether, in general, they liked mens clean-shaven faces or faces with facial hair. They asked male participants the same question in relation to their own faces.
They found that 57% of women indicated a preference for facial hair while 43% preferred clean-shaven male faces. Among men, 77% preferred facial hair for themselves while 23% preferred a clean-shaven look.
The researchers then conducted a second study in which male and female participants were asked to view five visual examples of male facial hair and were asked to indicate which look they preferred.
Preferences differed by gender. The authors write, The majority of women preferred clean-shaven male faces , followed by heavy stubble and light stubble . Faces with light beard and full beard were the least preferred.
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Here’s What Happens To Men Who Grow Beards According To Science
University of Queensland research understanding how varying lengths of facial hair might change perceptions of men, in the eyes of heterosexual women featured in MSN.
Dr Barnaby Dixson from UQs School of Psychology is a collaborator on the research.
Researchers collected the women’s reactions to photographs of men whose beards fell into four categories: clean-shaven, light stubble , heavy stubble , and thick beards .
The study really broke the women’s responses into categories based on what type of romantic relationships they were looking for.
But in short, men with light stubble and heavy stubble fared best in the “just looking for a little fun” category, while men with heavy stubble and full beards were most attractive to women looking for a long-term relationship.
Men with clean-shaven faces were at the back of the line in all cases.
Social Maturity Of Bearded Men
Whether it is true or not, women of all cultures tend to believe that men with full beards are more socially mature.
Generally, bearded men come off as older and more masculine. Moreover, older men are seen as more mature.
Of course, maturity depends on the individual, but we as humans make generalizations like this all the time.
Consider the Cheerleader Effect, where a less attractive person is perceived as more attractive when hanging with a group of attractive friends. A 2013 showed that this is real women are more attractive with friends than when alone as a result!
You might also want to look into the Halo Effect , which is a cognitive bias where our impression of someone influences or evaluations of their individual traits. For example, because we might love Tom Brady, well tend to also think he is / isnt funny, kind, etc
The brain can do funny things. Further, psychological biases like these arise and ultimately impact the way men with beards are perceived. Use them to your advantage!
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Psychology Explains Why Beards Can Make Men Feel Attractive
Why do men grow beards?
According to a survey done on behalf of beard-care company Honest Amish, men feel more confident with beards. In fact, the survey showed that one in five men would give up making love for a year to achieve the perfect beard. This survey is might be spot-on. Any scroll through social media photos can show you that mens facial hair is in.
Even if most men would not give up sex for the perfect beard, it doesnt mean that a large majority of them dont desire manly facial hair. To men, their facial hair is similar to how women feel about their hair, weight, skin, or bodily assets. A beard can make or break a mans self-esteem.
Its interesting how a little facial hair can change a mans opinion of himself.
Guys With Beards Die Young
Its not all roses for guys with beards. One study found that infrequent shaving of facial hair was linked with early deaths from all causes, most notably cardiovascular disease. Researchers suspect that this increased death risk is mainly due to lifestyle differences because bearded men were more likely to be shorter, less likely to be married, had fewer orgasms, and were more prone to smoking. Still, hormonal factors may be at play. So live it up while you can, bearded guys, and count James Dean as an outlier.
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Bearded Men Are Good With Babies
or at least thats womens perception according to Dixson and Vasey . This is a little mysterious given that beards are associated with masculinity and very masculine men are, on average, less likely to be good long-term bets.
But perhaps the beard as good-daddy-signal operates through other variables. Because men with beards look older and of higher social status, they are more likely to be able to provide for their offspring.
Or it could be, as Dixson and Vasey say, that its because they used pictures of bearded men who were smiling and this is a strangely potent combination.
Like a cage fighter baking a cake.
Or a fireman writing a poem.
You get the picture.
Beards Are Attractiveor Are They
Whether or not beards are attractive to women is a big area of controversy in beard-related psychological research. Some studies find that bearded men are more attractive to women than the clean-shaven, others not 00130-1″ rel=”nofollow”> Muscarella & Cunningham, 1996).
The most recent research goes against both beards and being clean-shaven and is starting to show the benefits of stubble.
But do women prefer light stubble or heavy stubble? The jury is still out, with one study suggesting light stubble and another heavy stubble .
Just a matter of fashion? Well, probably best for men to cover all bases by letting it grow through light to heavy stubble and into a full beard. See what effect it has on the women in your life and adjust to taste.
Its a social psychological experiment thats easy to do and saves precious moments in the morning.
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From The Renaissance To The Present Day
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Most Chinese emperors of the Ming dynasty appear with beards or mustaches in portraits.
In the 15th century, most European men were clean-shaven. 16th-century beards were allowed to grow to an amazing length . Some beards of this time were the Spanish spade beard, the English square cut beard, the forked beard, and the stiletto beard. In 1587 Francis Drake claimed, in a figure of speech, to have singed the King of Spain’s beard.
During the Chinese Qing dynasty , the ruling Manchu minority were either clean-shaven or at most wore mustaches, in contrast to the Han majority who still wore beards in keeping with the Confucian ideal.
In the beginning of the 17th century, the size of beards decreased in urban circles of Western Europe and by the middle of the century men usually wore a mustache or, at most, a pointed goatee. In the second half of the century, being clean-shaven gradually became more common again, so much so that in 1698, Peter the Great of Russia ordered men to shave off their beards, and in 1705 levied a tax on beards in order to bring Russian society more in line with contemporary Western Europe. Throughout the 18th century essentially all upper class and most middle class European men would be clean shaven.
Men With A Beard Are Often More Regarded As More Competent Especially As The Head Of The Household
This concept is purely an opinion and isnt necessarily true. Facial hair doesnt make someone a better man than a clean-shaved man. However, perception is often everything when it comes to certain situations. Two examples are when a man is seeking a job or when a woman is looking for someone to settle down with.
A man with a beard may be treated differently than clean-shaven men, even by family members and friends. The beard gives the perception of intelligence, confidence, sturdiness, strength, and superiority. Who wouldnt like the way theyre treated when people are constantly putting them on a pedestal?
Most men wouldnt let this treatment go to their heads , but it can give their confidence a significant boost and make them feel more attractive.
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Study : The Beard And Perceived Age
The same participants who completed study 3 completed this study. We ran a two-way repeated mixed measures ANCOVA in which participant’s age was entered as a covariate, perceived age ratings was the dependent variable, beardedness was the within-subjects repeated measures fixed factor, and culture and sex were between-subjects fixed factors.
Why Do Men Grow Beards Psychology And Style
As mentioned above, facial hair tends to provide men with a number of positive benefits.
What about emotional benefits?
Facial hair tends to take attention away from a bald scalp in the instance where a bald guy grows a beard or goatee like I do. So facial hair like a beard can offer balding men a good reason to grow one: It can make a balding guy feel better about his baldness by compensating elsewhere. Dont underestimate the value of this.
In fact research has shown positive attributes. The article The role of facial hair in womens perceptions of mens attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities stated:
Our findings confirm that beardedness affects judgments of male socio-sexual attributes and suggest that an intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive while full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring.
The research also showed how men and women differ in terms of their view of full beards vs. stubble:
Women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive. In contrast, men rated full beards and heavy stubble as most attractive, followed closely by clean-shaven and light stubble as least attractive.
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