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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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241B.J. Dixson, R.C. Brooks / Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013) 236241
... Men's facial hair, or beardedness, is a secondary sexual characteristic that has been implicated in both inter-and intra-sexual selection. Facial hair is influenced by androgens and given the immunosuppressant role of testosterone , it may serve as an honest signal to men's fitness, health, and parenting ability (Dixson & Brooks, 2013). Intrasexually, facial hair has shown to contribute to perceptions of men's social status (Dixson & Vasey, 2012), masculinity, and dominance (Neave & Shields, 2008) which are important attributes in contest competition (Puts, 2010). ...
... Men's beardedness is a conspicuous sexually dimorphic feature, and studies have demonstrated some evidence that they are found attractive by women. Women have demonstrated preferences for men with full beards McIntosh et al., 2017), and light stubble (Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Neave & Shields, 2008), while others have demonstrated preferences for clean-shaven faces (Dixson & Vasey, 2012). Additionally, beardedness can connote information about potential parental ability. ...
... Additionally, beardedness can connote information about potential parental ability. In a study examining perception of men's beards, Dixson and Brooks (2013) showed that full bearded men were perceived higher in parenting abilities compared to lower levels of facial hair. Women rate bearded men higher for co-parenting (Stower et al., 2020) and are judged as having higher parenting potential among mothers . ...
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Men’s beardedness is a sexually dimorphic trait that has played a role in both inter- and intra-sexual selection. It has been suggested that women may prefer bearded men because it may be a cue to men’s underlying physiology and immune function. Beardedness has also been implicated in perceptions of men’s aggressiveness and dominance. In the current research, we explored preferences for men’s beardedness among Iranian and Hispanic women and whether those preferences were moderated by trait pathogen proneness. In Study 1, Hispanic women were recruited and asked to choose the beard profile, from clean-shaven to very long, on a variety of traits (i.e., attractiveness, masculinity, fighting ability, reliable partner, and suitable father). Women more frequently chose light and moderate-length beard types across all outcome measures, and their self-reported levels of disgust was associated with higher preferences for clean-shaven profiles. In Study 2, Hispanic and Iranian women were recruited and asked to rate the beard profiles across the measures. Compared to Iranian women, Hispanic women demonstrated a stronger preference for bearded men. Further, there were cultural differences in self-reported measures of disgust and their preferences for beards in men. The findings from the current study highlight the unique preferences across populations for bearded profiles in men, and they suggest that they may be associated with pathogen trait levels.
... Despite these salient costs to perceivers, such formidability nonetheless connotes several benefits. Given the relative centrality of protective capabilities in determining men's paternal abilities (e.g., Billet, McCall & Schaller, 2023;Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Kokko, Brooks, Jennions & Morley, 2003), the perceived advantages of strong men as protectors could similarly lead to muscularity being a heuristic for paternal benefits (Brown, Donahoe & Boykin, 2022). Perceivers might weigh the estimated costs and benefits of social targets based on these competing stereotypes. ...
... For perceived effectiveness in parenting goals, larger trapezius muscles elicited perceptions of men as more effective at offspring protection. This finding aligns with previous work indicating that humans employ a lay heuristic toward formidable features as connoting an advantage in protecting group members (Brown, Donahoe & Boykin, 2022;Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Lukaszewski, Simmons, Anderson & Roney, 2016). Given the Conversely, participants viewed targets with smaller trapezii as affording more opportunities at effective nurturance. ...
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Neck musculature is reliably diagnostic of men's formidability and central to several inferences of their physical prowess. These inferences facilitate stereotypes of men's social value from which perceivers estimate their abilities to satisfy reproductive goals related to mate acquisition and parental care. Participants evaluated men's interest in various mating and parenting strategies, wherein men varied in the size of visible neck musculature through trapezii and sternocleidomastoids for perceivers to identify potential reproductive interests and goals. Large trapezii elicited perceptions of men as more effective at protecting offspring, albeit at the expense of nurturance and interest in long-term pair bonds. Results extend previous findings implicating formidability as central to relationship decisions by considering a novel modality.
... Higher testosterone levels indicate more masculinity, while overly masculine men may be more violent than their fewer masculine counterparts and pose a threat to women and offspring in long-term relationships. However, studies have shown that some women believe that men with beards look older, have higher social status and better parenting skills [46,47,48]. These are ideal characteristics of women's long-term love partners [49]. ...
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In contemporary society, men gradually increase their demand for shavers to keep their faces clean. Women also seem to pursue long hair by using a wig or artificial hair integrations. So, this paper will analyze these phenomena by studying the role of male beard and female long hair in mating selection from an evolutionary psychology perspective. This work is largely based on empirical evidence, previous studies , and relevant theories (such as short- and long-term mating strategies, parental investment theory, and good genes theory) to verify the hypotheses and generate the results. Unlike our initial assumptions, the result shows that women prefer men with beards in short-term relationships and men without beards in long-term relationships. The results also indicated that men prefer long-haired women more in long-term relationships while not having any preference for long-haired women in short-term relationships.
... 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.
Facial femininity in men is purportedly used as a cue by women as a signal of parental quality and willingness to provide resources. Accordingly, in contexts where choosing a partner that will provide resources is more beneficial (e.g., when resources are scarce), women have shown an increase preference for facial femininity in male faces. However, domains of scarcity often covary, and it is, therefore, unclear whether these contextual shifts in facial masculinity/femininity preferences are specific to material scarcity (as implied by previous theory), or due to an unrelated domain of scarcity (e.g., time or psychological scarcity). Here, a sample of 823 women completed the Perceived Scarcity Scale, which measures three separate domains of scarcity: material scarcity, time scarcity, and psychological scarcity. Participants also rated the attractiveness of 42 male faces, which were measured on objective sexual dimorphism and perceived masculinity. Consistent with theory, material scarcity, and not time or psychological scarcity, was associated with a decreased preference for objective sexual dimorphism (i.e., an increased preference for facial femininity). This study provides evidence that women use sexual dimorphism as a cue to material resource provisioning potential when assessing men as a mate.
Facial hair is a commonly desired feature for many individuals. Despite a breadth of dermatology literature covering strategies for removing facial hair, there are no known articles summarizing strategies for facial hair growth or reviewing common facial hair pathologies. Here, we assess Google Trends to describe significant increases in terms related to facial hair growth and maintenance over the last decade, suggesting an increased public interest on this topic. Next, we review ethnic differences in facial hair growth that may affect facial hair distribution, growth, and predisposition to certain facial hair pathologies. Lastly, we review studies on agents used for facial hair growth and review common facial hair pathologies.
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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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.