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The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities


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Facial hair strongly influences people's judgments of men's socio-sexual attributes. However, the nature of these judgments is often contradictory. The levels of intermediate facial hair growth presented to raters and the stage of female raters' menstrual cycles might have influenced past findings. We quantified men's and women's judgments of attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities for photographs of men who were clean-shaven, lightly or heavily stubbled and fully bearded. We also tested the effect of the menstrual cycle and hormonal contraceptive use on women's ratings. 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. Men and women rated full beards highest for parenting ability and healthiness. Masculinity ratings increased linearly as facial hair increased, and this effect was more pronounced in women in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, although attractiveness ratings did not differ according to fertility. 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.
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Original Article
The role of facial hair in women's perceptions of men's attractiveness, health,
masculinity and parenting abilities
Barnaby J. Dixson , Robert C. Brooks
Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Kensington, Sydney 2052 NSW, Australia
abstractarticle info
Article history:
Initial receipt 23 August 2012
Final revision received 24 February 2013
Sexual selection
Human evolution
Facial hair
Facial hair strongly inuences people's judgments of men's socio-sexual attributes. However, the nature of
these judgments is often contradictory. The levels of intermediate facial hair growth presented to raters and
the stage of female raters' menstrual cycles might have inuenced past ndings. We quantied men's and
women's judgments of attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities for photographs of men who
were clean-shaven, lightly or heavily stubbled and fully bearded. We also tested the effect of the menstrual
cycle and hormonal contraceptive use on women's ratings. 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. Men and women rated full beards highest for parenting ability and healthiness. Masculinity
ratings increased linearly as facial hair increased, and this effect was more pronounced in women in the fertile
phase of the menstrual cycle, although attractiveness ratings did not differ according to fertility. Our ndings
conrm 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.
© 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Androgen-dependent facial and bodily traits are positively associ-
ated with men's health (Thornhill & Gangestad, 2006), immunity
(Rantala et al., 2012), dominance and competitive ability (Archer,
2009). Masculine men may also achieve greater mating and repro-
ductive success (Rhodes, Simmons, & Peters, 2005). Yet averaged
across experiments, women either prefer less masculine faces (Perrett
et al., 1998) or weakly prefer masculine faces (Rhodes, 2006).
However, women's preferences for facial cues of masculinity vary,
growing strongest when men are rated for short-term relationships
(Little, Connely, Feinberg, Jones, & Roberts, 2011), and during the most
fertile part of their menstrual cycle (Gangestad & Thornhill, 2008).
The beard is a highly sexually dimorphic androgen-dependent trait
that varies markedly among men (Randall, 2008). While this implies a
sexually selected origin for beardedness, there is no consensus on the
relative importance of female mate choice and male-male competi-
tion in shaping facial hair. Given that facial hair growth begins at
puberty and continues throughout adulthood, it is not surprising
that beards augment perceptions of maturity and masculinity
(Addison, 1989; Neave & Shields, 2008). However, associations
between other personality traits and beards are highly polarized. On
the one hand, bearded men are ascribed positive attributes such as
self-condence, courage, sincerity, generosity and industriousness
(Kenny & Fletcher, 1973; Pellegrini, 1973; Hellström & Tekle, 1994).
On the other hand, beards are judged as less socially appeasing and
more aggressive (Addison, 1989; Muscarella & Cunningham, 1996;
Neave & Shields, 2008).
Findings on the attractiveness of facial hair are equally mixed. In
some cases full beards increased male attractiveness (Pellegrini, 1973;
Hateld & Sprecher, 1986; Reed & Blunk, 1990), while others found
they did not (Feinman & Gill, 1977; Wogalter & Hosie, 1991;
Muscarella & Cunningham, 1996; Dixson & Vasey, 2012). These
mixed ndings may have resulted, in part, from using written
questionnaires (Feinman & Gill, 1977), fake beards (Wood, 1986)or
facial hair created using make-up pencils (Muscarella & Cunningham,
1996). Where natural photographs have been used, typically only full
beards or clean-shaven faces were presented (e.g. Dixson & Vasey,
2012), which does not capture variation in men's ability to grow facial
hair. Interestingly, Neave and Shields (2008) found using computer-
generated images that varied in grades of facial hair that light stubble
was most attractive to women.
In the present study, a sample of men, each of whom were
photographed as clean-shaven, lightly stubbled, heavily stubbled and
fully bearded, were rated for attractiveness, healthiness, masculinity
Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013) 236241
Corresponding author. Evolution & Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological,
Earth & Environmental Sciences, The University of New South Wales, Kensington,
Sydney 2052 NSW, Australia.
E-mail address: (B.J. Dixson).
1090-5138/$ see front matter © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Evolution and Human Behavior
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and parenting abilities. Analysis 1 compared ratings between men and
women. We predicted that men would judge full beards more favorably
than women because of the strong role of beards in judgments of social
dominance and threat (Dixson & Vasey, 2012). Conversely, we
predicted that women may judge more bearded faces to be more
attractive than clean-shaven faces but that a threshold of masculinity
may be preferred, with lightly stubbled faces considered most attractive
(after Neave & Shields, 2008). Women's preferences for masculine traits
are known to become stronger during the late follicular, more fertile,
period of the menstrual cycle when any benets of mating with a more
masculine partner can be realized (Gangestad & Thornhill, 2008). Thus,
in Analysis 2 we tested the prediction that heavier stubble and hence
greater masculinity would be more attractive at the period of the
menstrual cycle when conception is more likely.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Stimuli
Ten men of European descent (mean age ± SD = 23.50 ±
3.57 years), each of whom had dark brown head and facial hair
were photographed in each of four conditions in the following order:
fully bearded (at least 6 weeks without shaving), clean-shaven, with
5 days (light stubble) and 10 days of beard growth (heavy stubble).
Men posed smiles generated using the Facial Action Coding System
(Ekman, Friesen, & Hager, 2002). Photographs were taken using a
Canon digital camera (8.0 megapixels resolution), 150 cm from the
participant under controlled lighting. Images were cropped so only
the face and neck were shown (Fig. 1).
2.2. Procedure
Studies were completed online at Participants
viewed each of the 10 faces once, with 4 faces clean-shaven and 2
faces in each of the other three categories of facial hair. Which faces
were assigned to which condition was determined at random for each
participant, as was the order in which faces were presented. Subjects
rated each face for attractiveness, healthiness, masculinity and
parenting abilities using six-point Likert scales (0 = very low5=
very high). After completing the ratings participants provided details
on their age, sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Female participants
also stated how many days ago their most recent menstrual bleeding
began, whether they were pregnant, post-menopausal or using
hormonal contraceptives.
2.3. Statistical analyses
Attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting ability ratings
were dependent variables in a MANOVA where facial hair was the
within-subject factor. Sex in Analysis 1 and reproductive status in
Analysis 2 were entered as between-subject factors.
2.4. Analysis 1: Male and female perceptions of beardedness
2.4.1. Analysis 1: Participants
Self-identied homosexual and asexual participants were exclud-
ed from analyses, as were female participants that were pregnant,
were post-menopausal or used hormonal contraceptives. Eight
percent of the female sample were bisexual and were retained, as
they are sexually attracted to men as well as women. Their inclusion
did not interact with any dependent variables (all Pvalues 0.249).
The nal sample size was 177 heterosexual men (mean age ± SD =
32.18 ± 10.30 years) and 351 women (27.94 ± 8.23 years), of
whom 79.9% were European, 8.4% were Asian, 4.2% were Native
American, 1.8% were African, Middle Eastern or Australasian and 5.7%
elected not to dene their ethnicity.
2.4.2. Analysis 1: Results
There was a signicant main effect of facial hair and a signicant
sex × facial hair interaction for attractiveness ratings (Table 1).
Women rated heavy stubble as signicantly more attractive than
clean-shaven, light stubble and full beards (all t
3.51, all
Fig. 1. An example of the stimuli used in this study. Images show the same man when
clean-shaven, with light stubble, heavy stubble and a full beard.
Table 1
Multivariate repeated-measures analysis of variance of the effects of facial hair and sex on perceptual ratings.
Within-subject effects
Facial hair Facial hair × sex
Pillai's trace 0.373 0.040
MANOVA 25.55 12 515 b0.001 0.373 1.80 12 515 0.045 0.040
7.02 2.8 1491.6 b0.001 0.013 2.66 2.8 1491.6 0.050 0.005
44.74 2.9 1521.1 b0.001 0.078 1.09 2.9 1521.1 0.349 0.002
14.03 2.9 1548.5 b0.001 0.026 2.58 2.9 1548.5 0.053 0.005
50.19 2.9 1525.4 b0.001 0.087 0.57 2.9 1525.4 0.631 0.001
Between-subject effects
Pillai's trace 0.053
MANOVA 7.30 4 523 0.000 0.053
Attractiveness 5.84 1 526 0.016 0.011
Parenting 5.17 1 526 0.023 0.010
Health 1.23 1 526 0.267 0.002
Masculinity 2.67 1 526 0.103 0.005
GreenhouseGeisser adjusted df (rounded to one decimal place).
237B.J. Dixson, R.C. Brooks / Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013) 236241
Pb0.001). In contrast, men rated full beards, heavy stubble and
clean-shaven as more attractive than light stubble (all t
2.17, all
Pb0.05). Men gave higher attractiveness ratings than women for full
beards (t
= 2.97, P= 0.003) and clean-shaven faces (t
= 2.83,
P= 0.005), but not for light (t
= 1.09, P= 0.274) or heavy
stubble (t
= 0.04, P= 0.968; Fig. 2A).
Facial hair signicantly affected ratings of parenting abilities, health
and masculinity. However, the only main effect of sex was for parenting
Fig. 2. Mean ratings (+SD) for clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble and full beards when judging physical attractiveness (A), parenting skills (B), health (C) and masculinity
(D). White bars show female ratings and gray bars show male ratings.
Table 2
Multivariate repeated-measures analysis of variance of the effects of facial hair and fertility on ratings.
Within-subject effects
Facial hair Facial hair × fertility
Pillai's trace 0.478 0.071
MANOVA 32.72 12 428 b0.001 0.478 1.32 24 858 0.139 0.036
8.08 2.9 1267.0 b0.001 0.018 0.26 5.8 1267.0 0.952 0.001
38.83 2.9 1284.6 b0.001 0.081 1.20 5.9 1284.6 0.306 0.005
3.18 2.9 1288.9 0.024 0.007 1.07 5.9 1288.9 0.379 0.005
55.56 2.9 1264.4 b0.001 0.112 2.05 5.8 1264.4 0.059 0.009
Between-subject effects
Pillai's trace 0.020
MANOVA 1.10 8 874 0.364 0.010
Attractiveness 0.48 2 439 0.619 0.002
Parenting 0.07 2 439 0.931 0.000
Health 0.30 2 439 0.740 0.001
Masculinity 3.00 2 439 0.051 0.013
GreenhouseGeisser adjusted df (rounded to one decimal place).
238 B.J. Dixson, R.C. Brooks / Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013) 236241
abilities, with women giving signicantly higher ratings than men
=2.27,P= 0.023). There was a marginally signicant interaction
between sex and facial hair for health ratings (Table 1), so that
comparedto men women gave higher health ratings for light and heavy
stubble but not clean-shaven or full beards (Fig. 2C). However, none of
the paired comparisons were statistically signicant (all t
1.82, all
PN0.05). There were no other interaction effects involving sex
(Table 1). Full beards were rated signicantly higher than other facial
hair categories for parenting abilities (all t
6.78, all Pb0.001;
Fig. 2B), healthiness (all t
2.87, all Pb0.01; Fig. 2C) and
masculinity (all t
3.91, all Pb0.001; Fig. 2D).
2.5. Analysis 2: Female fertility and perceptions of beardedness
2.5.1. Analysis 2: Participants
Analysis 2 used a sub-sample of Analysis 1 in which only the
responses of regularly cycling women who reported the onset of
menstrual bleeding between 0 and 28 days ago were used. Participants
whose menstrual bleeding fell between 05and1528 days before the
trial were categorized as the low-fertilityphase and those whose
bleeding fell between days 6 and 14 were classed as the high-fertility
phase (Penton-Voak et al., 1999; Little, Jones, & DeBruine, 2008). A total
of 182 women were in the low-fertility category (mean age =28.80 ±
8.53 years), 100 women were in the high-fertility category (mean
age = 27.93 ± 6.94 years) and 160 women used hormonal contra-
ceptives (mean age = 27.12 ± 6.63 years). More than half of the
participants (78.3%) were European, 8.6% were Asian, 3.9% were Native
American, 1.5% were African, Middle Eastern or Australasian and 7.7%
elected not to dene their ethnicity.
2.5.2. Analyses 2: Results
Facial hair signicantly affected women's ratings of attractiveness,
parenting abilities, health and masculinity (Table 2). Fertility and its
associated interactions with other factors did not alter ratings, apart
from a marginal effect on masculinity ratings. Rated masculinity
increased linearly as facial hair increased, with full beards receiving
signicantly higher ratings than clean-shaven, light and heavy stubble
(all t
4.29, all Pb0.001). However, high-fertility participants
gave signicantly higher ratings for full beards than low-fertility
participants (t
= 3.68, Pb0.001) and contraceptive users (t
2.62, P= 0.009; Fig. 3D).
Irrespective of fertility, women's attractiveness ratings were
signicantly higher for heavy stubble than other degrees of
beardedness (all t
3.63, all Pb0.001; Fig. 3A). Full beards
received signicantly higher parenting skill ratings than other levels
of facial hair (all t
5.67, all Pb0.001; Fig. 3B). Full beards also
received higher health ratings than light (t
= 2.81, P= 0.005)
and heavy stubble (t
= 2.24, P= 0.025), but not clean-shaven
faces (t
= 0.97, P= 0.335). Clean-shaven faces were judged as
healthier than light stubble (t
= 2.13, P= 0.033) but not heavy
stubble (t
= 1.56, P= 0.121; Fig. 3C). Very similar results
were found using a measure of likelihood of conception (see
Supplementary material, available on the journal's website at
Fig. 3. Women's mean ratings (+SD) for clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble and full beards when judging physical attractiveness (A), parenting skills (B), health (C) and
masculinity (D). Data are split by participant's fertility with white bars depicting low fertility, gray bars representing high fertility and black bars indicating ratings by participants
who were using hormonal contraceptives.
239B.J. Dixson, R.C. Brooks / Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013) 236241
3. Discussion
While ratings of masculinity rose monotonically with beardedness,
the effects of facial hair on attractiveness, health and parenting ratings
were non-linear. In almost all cases, light stubble received the lowest
ratings, with heavy stubble or full beards judged more favorably and
clean-shaven faces faring as well or almost as well. Attractiveness was
the only property that males and females rated differently, but the
interaction between sex and health ratings was marginally signicant
as women gave higher health ratings for light and heavy stubble than
men. Both men and women rated light stubble as least attractive and
heavy stubble as most (women) or equal most (men) attractive.
However, women rated clean-shaven and fully bearded faces less
attractive than heavy stubble. The fact that women and men differ
signicantly in how they rate the attractiveness of different levels of
beardedness may reect dual signaling functions of male facial hair.
Facial hair correlates not only with maturity and masculinity, but
also with dominance and aggression (Neave & Shields, 2008). Men,
judging other men, might be sensitive to the overall level of masculine
threat and aggression signaled through full beards (Dixson & Vasey,
2012). Women, by contrast, may balance the benets of an intra-
sexually competitive masculine partner against the costs of mating
with a too-masculine partner. Our nding that women prefer heavy
stubble contrasts with previous studies in which attractiveness
ratings were highest for either clean-shaven faces (Feinman & Gill,
1977; Wogalter & Hosie, 1991; Muscarella & Cunningham, 1996)or
full beards (Pellegrini, 1973; Hateld & Sprecher, 1986; Reed & Blunk,
1990). However, it is similar to Neave and Shields (2008), who found
women preferred light stubble, with the lowest ratings given to fully
bearded and clean-shaven faces. Neave and Shields (2008) found, as
we did, that perceived masculinity rose linearly with facial hair. They
concluded that light stubble is preferred over clean-shaven faces as an
unambiguous signal of post-pubertal sexual maturity, while not
achieving the overly masculine appearance of heavy stubble and full
beards. Interestingly, in our study light stubble was perceived as the
least healthy, particularly by men, lowest on parenting skills and the
least attractive. Although these effects are subtle and further research
is necessary, it may be that these negative ratings reect discrimina-
tion against the more patchy light stubble and suggests a threshold of
density and distribution may be necessary for beards to function as an
attractive signal. Our study does not include a sufciently broad
sample of males to tease apart this interaction and future research
that includes a greater sample with a wider range of natural variation
of beardedness would be valuable.
Women's discrimination against full beards in attractiveness
ratings may be due to costs of mating with a too-masculine man.
Highly masculine men tend to have lower romantic attachment, less
interest in long-term relationships and report engaging in more short-
term relationships (Rhodes et al., 2005; Boothroyd, Jones, Burt,
DeBruine, & Perrett, 2008). While a highly masculine partner might
impose costs, women's preferences are known to shift more towards
masculine men when the likelihood of conception is higher (Gang-
estad & Thornhill, 2008). We found that participants with higher
potential fertility gave full-bearded faces higher masculinity ratings
than did low-fertility participants, suggesting a sensitivity of women
in the fertile phase to masculinity. However, fertility was unrelated to
attractiveness ratings, as thick stubble was always most attractive and
light stubble always least attractive. Our ndings are similar to a
recent study demonstrating that women's preferences for facial hair
do not change with fertility or among pre-menopausal, post-
menopausal or pregnant women (Dixson, Tam, & Awasthy, 2012).
Thus, although facial hair is a clear signal of sexual maturity and
masculinity, preferences among women appear not to be linked to
reproductive status or fertility, as is the case for numerous sexually
dimorphic androgen-dependent traits. However, our study used a
count-back system to estimate fertility. While this is common in
studies of women's mate preferences, such procedures are prone to
measurement error, inaccuracies in recalling the onset of bleeding and
natural individual variation between participants in onset and
duration of the period of high fertility (Fehring, Schneider, & Raviele,
2006; Small, Manatunga, & Marcus, 2007). Future studies would
benet from using more direct measures of fertility to fully test shifts
in preferences for facial hair over the menstrual cycle.
In addition to being perceived as less invested in long-term
romantic relationships, masculine-looking men are perceived as likely
to provide low paternal investment (Perrett et al., 1998; Kruger,
2006). Our results suggest that this does not generally hold for beards.
Indeed, little is known regarding the socio-sexuality of men who
typically choose to wear beards and whether or not they are less
romantically committed to long-term relationships than men who opt
to be clean-shaven. Despite the strong association between beards
and perceptions of social dominance, threat and aggressiveness
(Neave & Shields, 2008; Dixson & Vasey, 2012), we found that
women rated parental abilities of men with full beards highest.
However, beards augment perceived age, social maturity, industri-
ousness, sincerity and ambition (Kenny & Fletcher, 1973; Pellegrini,
1973; Hellström & Tekle, 1994), all of which are strongly valued by
women in long-term partners (Buss, 1989). Further, masculine traits
associated with aggression and dominance may provide direct
benets such as protection to long-term mates (Snyder et al., 2011),
which could explain why beards received higher parental ability
ratings. Alternatively, our use of smiling stimuli may have offset the
negative effects associated with higher masculinity attributed to full
beards. Thus, compared to neutral facial expressions, a posed open
smile is judged as signicantly more attractive, kind, sympathetic,
ambitious and intelligent (Otta, Abrosio, & Hoshino, 1996). Facial hair
is known to interact with facial expression in perceptions of emotional
states (Dixson & Vasey, 2012). Thus, the combination of pro-social
attributes ascribed to smiling faces could explain why full beards in
concert with smiling facial expressions were judged to have greater
parenting skills despite the higher ratings for masculinity.
It is possible that prevailing cultural perceptions of facial hair also
contribute to how beardedness was judged in our study. Frequencies
and styling fashions of men's beards varies over time and among
cultures. For example, the frequency of mustaches, sideburns, full
beards and clean-shaven appearances among men in London from
1842 to 1972 each had distinct peaks in popularity (Robinson, 1976).
While this may merely reect arbitrary trends in tastes, Barber (2001)
found using Robinson's data that men were more bearded when there
were more men of marriageable age in the mating market.
Preferences for masculine facial shape are known to be greater
among women living in countries with the lowest standards of
healthcare (DeBruine, Jones, Crawford, Welling, & Little, 2010) and
highest-income inequality (Brooks et al., 2011), and it would be
interesting to know if a similar pattern pertains to facial hair.
Although our sample was large, both men's and women's responses
to the stimuli might reect the aggregate outcome of preferences
across the sample and future studies testing whether or not
judgments of facial hair vary across demographic and ecological
settings would be valuable.
Our repeated-measures design, while powerful, did not include
individuals unable to grow full beards, nor did it account for the actual
levels of the target's testosterone, which inuences men's potential to
grow full beards (Randall, 2008). Further, we cannot account for the
effects of the experimental procedure of removing facial hair on men's
condence, which could have inuenced how they were rated. Subtle
effects of this kind are known to inuence experimental results; for
example, women rate photographs of men wearing red t-shirts as
more attractive than men wearing other colors of shirt, even when
shirts are not visible in the photograph (Roberts, Owen, & Havlicek,
2010). Likewise, wearing a false beard augments men's feelings of
masculinity and condence (Wood, 1986).
240 B.J. Dixson, R.C. Brooks / Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013) 236241
As a further caveat to our study, photographs of each subject were
all taken in the same sequence of beard growth, beginning with the
full-beard condition, followed by clean-shaven and the two interme-
diate stages of natural re-growth. It is therefore possible that because
the photographing sessions were not counterbalanced that the
target's condence or even level of interest in participating changed
from one photographic session to another, which would confound the
clean-shaven and light stubble compared to the heavy stubble and full
beard conditions. Thus, we cannot tell the extent to which our results
depend on the beards themselves or the targets' self-condence as a
result of the beard manipulation. Our results do support the view that
facial hair signicantly affects perceptions of male socio-sexual
attributes. The challenge for future research is to uncover how
individual differences among men choosing to wear beards and how
pattern, density and distribution of their beards are perceived using a
larger and more variable sample of men.
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... In reference to physical attractiveness, research on beards enhancing men's attractiveness has been mixed. Research has shown that women rate men with full beards as attractive [43][44][45], while others have shown that men with a heavy stubble [46], light stubble [47], and clean shaven [48] are rated higher in attractiveness. Interestingly, men with beards are often rated higher in parental ability [49] and are rated higher in attractiveness for a long-term partnership [46,47]. ...
... Research has shown that women rate men with full beards as attractive [43][44][45], while others have shown that men with a heavy stubble [46], light stubble [47], and clean shaven [48] are rated higher in attractiveness. Interestingly, men with beards are often rated higher in parental ability [49] and are rated higher in attractiveness for a long-term partnership [46,47]. This may be due to the perceptions beardedness has on age, maturity, and ambition, which are attributes that are desirable in a long-term partner. ...
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This chapter provides an overview of the literature on the sex differences in physical attractiveness, and how it influences mate choice. More specifically, it investigates evolutionary perspectives on men and women’s preferences for physical traits, such as ideal breast features in women, and masculine physical traits (i.e., muscularity, broad shoulders) in men. The chapter focuses on conditional (i.e., ecological/environmental) roles on mate preferences, in addition to examining possible individual differences, such as mate value. The chapter covers the following: (1) An overview of sex differences in attractiveness, including theoretical explanations, (2) A broad focus on women’s ideal preferences, (3) A broad focus on men’s ideal preferences, and (4) A discussion on conditional factors and individual differences influencing preferences for ideal traits.
... Masculine traits, such as beardedness, are preferred by women in populations where beards are frequent (Dixson et al., 2017) and where the sex ratio is male-biased (Dixson et al., 2019a). Bearded men are also considered as having higher parenting abilities (Dixson and Brooks, 2013), primarily among women with young children (Dixson et al., 2019b). Women have also shown preferences to bearded men because it may signal their ability to provide direct benefits in the form of immediate resources and protection. ...
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The current study investigated the ovulatory shift hypothesis, which suggests that women prefer more masculine traits when estradiol is high, and progesterone is low (E/P ratio). The current study used an eye tracking paradigm to measure women's visual attention to facial masculinity across the menstrual cycle. Estradiol (E) and progesterone (P) were collected to determine if salivary biomarkers were associated with visual attention to masculine faces in a short-and long-term mating context. Women (N = 81) provided saliva samples at three time points throughout their menstrual cycle and were asked to rate and view men's faces that had been manipulated to appear feminine and masculine. Overall, masculine faces were viewed longer compared to feminine faces and this was moderated by mating context, where women viewed masculine faces longer for a long-term relationship. There was not any evidence suggesting that E/P ratio was associated with preferences for facial masculinity, but there was evidence to suggest that hormones were associated with visual attention to men in general. In line with sexual strategies theory, there was evidence to suggest that mating context and facial masculinity are important in mate choice; however, there was no evidence to suggest that women's mate choice was associated with shifts across the menstrual cycle.
... Second, facial and body hair is adopted. On the one hand, wearing facial hair is regarded as a sign of masculinity (Addison, 1989) and attractiveness (Dixson & Brooks, 2013). On the other hand, body depilation is observed to be an indicator for changing masculine norms (Terry & Braun, 2016) as evidenced in the fact that both heterosexual and non-heterosexual men engage in the removal of armpit, leg, back, buttock and pubic hair on a regular basis (Hall, 2015;Martins, Tiggemann & Churchett, 2008;Porche, 2007). ...
Cosmetic surgery is a thriving industry worldwide and Thailand is one of the market leaders. However, research which has explored issues concerning cosmetic surgery largely focuses on that of females. Moreover, it revolves around surveying clients, either quantitatively or qualitatively, rather than investigating the text which they consume. Even among the studies examining such text, they are predominantly conducted with the text published in offline media and within a Western context. Therefore, the current study seeks to address such knowledge gaps by concentrating on online texts which male clients possibly consult for cosmetic surgery in Thailand. Since it is required by law that cosmetic surgery be conducted within authorised medical establishments, Thai cosmetic hospitals play a vital role in pursuing particular discursive strategies to communicate with clients. It is those strategies which the present study intends to investigate. To be exact, it intends to answer the following research questions: (1) What discursive strategies are employed by Thai cosmetic hospitals to propagate the ideologies about cosmetic surgery for masculinity enhancement? and (2) How do such strategies operate? To answer the first question, the present study employs Van Dijk’s conception of the ideological square. It consists of how to: (1) emphasise our good things, (2) de-emphasise our bad things, (3) emphasise their bad things and (4) de-emphasise their good things. This framework is useful in providing a general principle of how hospitals are likely to communicate with clients. However, an additional issue may arise with regard to, for example, in which way hospitals actually emphasise the good things of cosmetic surgery. Such an issue connects with the second research question. Hence, the other framework, Taylor’s six-segment message strategy model, comes into play by functioning as a specific tool to answer it. The model consists of the ego, social, sensory, routine, acute need, and ration message strategies. Methodologically, the present study utilises a corpus-assisted discourse analysis which amalgamates a quantitative method (the identification of significant keywords and collocations) into a qualitative analysis (the investigation of data extracts containing those significant lexical items). The corpus consists of the English version of webpage content belonging to 20 Thai hospitals with a total number of 73,168 words. The findings reveal that, firstly, to emphasise the good things of cosmetic surgery, hospitals implement the ego, social, sensory and ration strategies. Secondly, to de-emphasise the bad things of post-operative complications, hospitals employ the ration strategy. Thirdly, to emphasise the bad things of not undergoing cosmetic surgery, hospitals adopt the ego strategy. Fourthly, to de-emphasise the good things of other means which are perceived as a rival to cosmetic surgery, hospitals pursue the ego and ration strategies. Overall, a preponderance of these strategies revolves around the notion of masculinity, which is conceptualised as the ideology concerning how to feel like a man, act like a man and have a body touted as a man. The current study makes a theoretical and practical contribution. Theoretically, it is among the first which triangulates the discourse and the communication frameworks to analyse gender-related discourse pertaining to cosmetic surgery for masculinity enhancement in the Thai context. Practically, it hopes to raise awareness and promote media literacy among male clients about how cosmetic hospitals manifest and medicalise the ideology of masculinity via their online platforms.
... Accordingly, an evolutionary history involving competition over mates (among males) is among the most viable evolutionary explanations for sex differences in human height and weight [26]. While hypothetical evolutionary causes are hard to empirically assess, sexual selection has provided a powerful explanatory framework for additional sex-biased traits in humans, including facial hair [27], fat distribution [28], aggression [29], and spatial ability [30]. For example: i) mate competition among males may contribute to male-biased rates of aggression across human cultures [29]; ii) sex differences in foraging throughout early human evolution (and after transitions to agriculture in some populations [31]) may partially explain sex-biased spatial abilities (e.g., labor division: females gather from spatially stable but seasonally variable food sites; males hunt across long distances spanning various routes; modern performance patterns: females outperform on object location memory and navigation by landmark tasks; males outperform on mental rotation tasks, which are associated with throwing accuracy and navigation by orientation) [32,33]; and (iii) effective mate choice may require behavioral inhibition and contribute to female outperformance on inhibitory tasks [34]. ...
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Highlights Recent large-scale studies have reached different conclusions regarding the presence of sex differences in human neuroanatomy. We show that these contradictory findings are explained by different methodological choices. While multiple large direct analyses highlight small, highly reproducible sex differences, reviews do not account for methodological heterogeneity across studies (e.g., statistical power/sample size, brain size-correction methods, segmentation, region selection, participant age). This explains many of the apparent inconsistencies reported in recent reviews. We also summarize observations that motivate research on sex differences in human neuroanatomy (including potential causes and effects), review methodological and empirical support for using structural MRI to investigate such patterns, and outline best practices for analyzing and describing neuroanatomical sex differences. Finally, we argue that broader historical and societal contexts make it important to reinforce the scientific method by adopting an actively "anti-sexist" viewpoint when conducting research on sex differences in the human brain.
... Potentially the most visually distinctive secondary sexual trait in males is facial hair 33,34 . Owing to the emergence of facial hair during adolescence and its full expression in adulthood, beards unambiguously communicate age, maturity, and masculinity 32,35,36 . Additionally, using photographs of the same men posing neutral expressions when bearded compared to when clean-shaven, beards increased ratings of social status 37 , social dominance 38,39 , strength 40,41 and aggressiveness 32,36 . ...
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Human visual systems have evolved to extract ecologically relevant information from complex scenery. In some cases, the face in the crowd visual search task demonstrates an anger superiority effect, where anger is allocated preferential attention. Across three studies (N = 419), we tested whether facial hair guides attention in visual search and influences the speed of detecting angry and happy facial expressions in large arrays of faces. In Study 1, participants were faster to search through clean-shaven crowds and detect bearded targets than to search through bearded crowds and detect clean-shaven targets. In Study 2, targets were angry and happy faces presented in neutral backgrounds. Facial hair of the target faces was also manipulated. An anger superiority effect emerged that was augmented by the presence of facial hair, which was due to the slower detection of happiness on bearded faces. In Study 3, targets were happy and angry faces presented in either bearded or clean-shaven backgrounds. Facial hair of the background faces was also systematically manipulated. A significant anger superiority effect was revealed, although this was not moderated by the target’s facial hair. Rather, the anger superiority effect was larger in clean-shaven than bearded face backgrounds. Together, results suggest that facial hair does influence detection of emotional expressions in visual search, however, rather than facilitating an anger superiority effect as a potential threat detection system, facial hair may reduce detection of happy faces within the face in the crowd paradigm.
... Individuals rely on various physical cues when making these judgments (Brown et al., 2021a). For inferences of men's abilities, body fat and facial hair are perceived as diagnostic of their capability to provide extensive care for their offspring (Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Sacco et al., 2020). The signal values of these features appear specific to parental warmth and resource provisioning. ...
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The selection of formidable male allies within coalitional settings is partially in the service of ensuring protection from physical threats for group members. Within these inferences could include specific judgments of formidable men as being effective at providing protection for their offspring, a judgment that could facilitate identification of prospective fathers who satisfy parenting goals. The current study sought to identify the specific value of men’s physical strength in shaping perceptions of their effectiveness in domains or protection and nurturance of offspring. Participants evaluated physically strong and weak in their effectiveness in these domains. Strong men were perceived as more effective in protecting their offspring than weak men, with this advantage corresponding with strong men being perceived as less effective in nurturance. We frame results from an affordance management framework considering the role of functional inferences shaping interpersonal preferences.
This chapter focuses on the behaviors employed by men in the service of attracting mates, which we discuss as having emerged to solve specific reproductive problems faced by women. We consider behaviors employed by men to attract mates in short-term mating and long-term mating contexts, given the differential valuation on certain behavioral repertoire that emerge. In short-term mating, we specifically consider behavioral displays of dominance with their dispositional and situational antecedents before discussing men’s pursuit of distinctiveness and humor use, behaviors ostensibly indicative of good genes. In long-term mating, our discussion centers around the desirability of different resource displays and benevolence. We further discuss cues ostensibly diagnostic of paternal investment ability and an interest in monogamy. Our final section addresses how modern mating markets present adaptive problems for men (e.g., online dating, appearance enhancing behaviors) and how men seek to solve the new problems that have emerged.
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Dominant theorizing and research surrounding the operation of intersexual selection in evolutionary psychology tends to be guided by an adaptationist framework and aligned with models of sexual selection involving direct benefits (e.g., parental care) and indirect "good gene" and condition-dependent benefits. In this way, evolutionary psychologists more often espouse Alfred Russel Wallaces' utilitarian viewpoint that traits become attractive because they honestly signal vigor and vitality, which gives priority to natural selection. In doing so, Darwin's esthetic perspective originally articulated in The Descent of Man and alternative models of sexual selection (e.g., Fisherian runaway), are given less consideration. This is despite some informative reviews on the topic in evolutionary psychology. In the current conceptual analysis, we discuss the potential of Prum's Lande-Kirkpatrick (LK) null model of sexual selection to help make sense of some of the mixed evidence regarding the links between attractive traits and purported markers of phenotypic and genetic condition. We then consider how the implications of the LK null model can help to shift theoretical assumptions and guide future work in evolutionary psychology on intersexual selection.
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The beard is a strikingly sexually dimorphic androgen-dependent secondary sexual trait in humans. Darwin posited that beards evolved in human ancestors via female choice as a highly attractive masculine adornment. Others have since proposed that beards evolved as a signal of male status and dominance. Here, we show that women from two very different ethnic groups, Europeans from New Zealand and Polynesians from Samoa, do not rate bearded male faces as more attractive than clean-shaven faces. Women and men from both cultures judge bearded faces to be older and ascribe them higher social status than the same men when clean-shaven. Images of bearded men displaying an aggressive facial expression were also rated as significantly more aggressive than the same men when clean-shaven. Thus, the beard appears to augment the effectiveness of human aggressive facial displays. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the human beard evolved primarily via intrasexual selection between males and as part of complex facial communication signaling status and aggressiveness.
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Women's preferences for masculine traits are reported to be greater among young reproductively capable women, particularly just prior to ovulation, than among pregnant and postmenopausal women. This study is the first to investigate whether women's preferences for men's facial hair follow this pattern. We conducted surveys quantifying reproductive status and attractiveness ratings for facial hair (clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, and full beards) among 426 women from Wellington City, New Zealand Results showed that pregnant, pre- and postmenopausal women rated faces that were clean-shaven, or with light and heavy stubble, as more attractive than full beards. Postmenopausal women gave higher scores for all degrees of facial hair, including full beards, than premenopausal and pregnant women. Premenopausal women at the high fertility phases of the menstrual cycle gave higher ratings for heavy stubble than participants at the low fertility phase or who were using contraceptives. However, these differences were not statistically significant, and the main effects were driven primarily by the low ratings ascribed to full beards. Women with partners that were clean-shaven judged clean-shaven faces as most attractive, whereas women with partners with heavy stubble or full beards judged heavy stubble as most attractive. Although women's current partner and father's degree of beardedness were positively correlated, their fathers' beardedness showed little relationship to attractiveness judgments of facial hair. These results demonstrate that all women by no means consider beards unattractive. However, preferences vary only subtly with respect to hormonal, reproductive, and relationship status.
Bern's Sex-role Inventory was administered to 60 male undergraduates divided into three groups: artificially bearded, wearing a bandanna, and control. The beard-wearers chose a significantly greater proportion of masculine adjectives than did the controls.
Preferences of 482 Caucasian female college students for males' beardedness were investigated through a questionnaire. Observed low levels of liking for beardedness contrast markedly with earlier research on other college populations. The influence of region and rurality on political and social conservatism was discussed as a possible explanation for variation among studies of reaction to male beardedness.
Male and female students ( N = 114) in introductory psychology rated pictures of bearded and nonbearded men on characteristics associated with masculinity. Bearded men were rated significantly higher on masculinity, aggressiveness, dominance, and strength. The results are discussed in light of apparently contradictory evidence which suggests that bearded men are seen as less desirable than nonbearded men.
This research note presents sample-derived measures of comparative frequencies over time (1842-1972) for changing modes in men's facial barbering. Students of the dynamics of taste have been slow to follow up A. L. Kroeber's pioneering demonstration that shifts in the comparative proportions of women's dress design over time have generally tended to follow alternating directions over long periods which are notably consisten and regular in their recurrence. The remarkable similarity of the chronological patterns emerging from my measurements to those found by Kroeber strongly suggest that they are common expression of underlying conditions and sequences in social behavior. The hypothesis that stylistic changes are subject to common behavioral influences is reinforced now that the two sets of data are available for comparison.
If attractiveness is an important cue for mate choice, as proposed by evolutionary psychologists, then attractive individuals should have greater mating success than their peers. We tested this hypothesis in a large sample of adults. Facial attractiveness correlated with the number of short-term, but not long-term, sexual partners, for males, and with the number of long-term, but not short-term, sexual partners and age of first sex, for females. Body attractiveness also correlated significantly with the number of short-term, but not long-term, sexual partners, for males, and attractive males became sexually active earlier than their peers. Body attractiveness did not correlate with any sexual behavior variable for females. To determine which aspects of attractiveness were important, we examined associations between sexual behaviors and three components of attractiveness: sexual dimorphism, averageness, and symmetry. Sexual dimorphism showed the clearest associations with sexual behaviors. Masculine males (bodies, similar trend for faces) had more short-term sexual partners, and feminine females (faces) had more long-term sexual partners than their peers. Feminine females (faces) also became sexually active earlier than their peers. Average males (faces and bodies) had more short-term sexual partners and more extra-pair copulations (EPC) than their peers. Symmetric women (faces) became sexually active earlier than their peers. Given that male reproductive success depends more on short-term mating opportunities than does female reproductive success, these findings suggest that individuals of high phenotypic quality have higher mating success than their lower quality counterparts.
We investigated aspects of self-reported health history–the number and duration of respiratory and stomach or intestinal infections and the number of uses of antibiotics over the last 3 years–in relation to measured facial masculinity, developmental instability [facial asymmetry and body fluctuating asymmetry (FA)] and facial attractiveness in a sample of 203 men and 203 women. As predicted from the hypothesis that the degree of facial masculinity is an honest signal of individual quality, men's facial masculinity correlated negatively and women's positively with respiratory disease number and duration. Stomach illness, however, was not associated significantly with facial masculinity and antibiotic use correlated significantly (negatively) only with men's facial masculinity. For both facial asymmetry and body FA, significant, positive associations were seen with the number of respiratory infections. In addition, facial asymmetry was associated positively with the number of days infected and marginally, in the same direction, with antibiotic use. Facial attractiveness showed no significant relationships with any of our health-history measures. This study provides some evidence that facial masculinity in both sexes may signal disease resistance and that developmental stability covaries positively with disease resistance. The validity of our health measures is discussed.