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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
Keywords:
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.dixson@unsw.edu.au (B.J. Dixson).
1090-5138/$ see front matter © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
Evolution and Human Behavior
journal homepage: www.ehbonline.org
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 www.bodylab.biz. 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
351
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
Fdf
n
df
d
Pη
p2
Fdf
n
df
d
Pη
p2
MANOVA 25.55 12 515 b0.001 0.373 1.80 12 515 0.045 0.040
Attractiveness
a
7.02 2.8 1491.6 b0.001 0.013 2.66 2.8 1491.6 0.050 0.005
Parenting
a
44.74 2.9 1521.1 b0.001 0.078 1.09 2.9 1521.1 0.349 0.002
Health
a
14.03 2.9 1548.5 b0.001 0.026 2.58 2.9 1548.5 0.053 0.005
Masculinity
a
50.19 2.9 1525.4 b0.001 0.087 0.57 2.9 1525.4 0.631 0.001
Between-subject effects
Sex
Pillai's trace 0.053
Fdf
n
df
d
Pη
p2
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
a
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
176
2.17, all
Pb0.05). Men gave higher attractiveness ratings than women for full
beards (t
526
= 2.97, P= 0.003) and clean-shaven faces (t
526
= 2.83,
P= 0.005), but not for light (t
526
= 1.09, P= 0.274) or heavy
stubble (t
526
= 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
Fdf
n
df
d
Pη
p2
Fdf
n
df
d
Pη
p2
MANOVA 32.72 12 428 b0.001 0.478 1.32 24 858 0.139 0.036
Attractiveness
a
8.08 2.9 1267.0 b0.001 0.018 0.26 5.8 1267.0 0.952 0.001
Parenting
a
38.83 2.9 1284.6 b0.001 0.081 1.20 5.9 1284.6 0.306 0.005
Health
a
3.18 2.9 1288.9 0.024 0.007 1.07 5.9 1288.9 0.379 0.005
Masculinity
a
55.56 2.9 1264.4 b0.001 0.112 2.05 5.8 1264.4 0.059 0.009
Between-subject effects
Fertility
Pillai's trace 0.020
Fdf
n
df
d
Pη
p2
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
a
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
(t
526
=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
526
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
527
6.78, all Pb0.001;
Fig. 2B), healthiness (all t
527
2.87, all Pb0.01; Fig. 2C) and
masculinity (all t
527
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
441
4.29, all Pb0.001). However, high-fertility participants
gave signicantly higher ratings for full beards than low-fertility
participants (t
280
= 3.68, Pb0.001) and contraceptive users (t
258
=
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
441
3.63, all Pb0.001; Fig. 3A). Full beards
received signicantly higher parenting skill ratings than other levels
of facial hair (all t
441
5.67, all Pb0.001; Fig. 3B). Full beards also
received higher health ratings than light (t
441
= 2.81, P= 0.005)
and heavy stubble (t
441
= 2.24, P= 0.025), but not clean-shaven
faces (t
441
= 0.97, P= 0.335). Clean-shaven faces were judged as
healthier than light stubble (t
441
= 2.13, P= 0.033) but not heavy
stubble (t
441
= 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
www.ehbonline.org).
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.
Supplementary Materials
Supplementary data to this article can be found online at http://dx.
doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.02.003.
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241B.J. Dixson, R.C. Brooks / Evolution and Human Behavior 34 (2013) 236241
... The presence of a beard can produce a more masculine appearance, as a beard augments jaw size (Dixson et al., , 2018 and the midface (Guthrie, 1970;Sherlock et al., 2017). Moreover, full-bearded men are perceived as more dominant (Neave et al., 2008), aggressive (Addison, 1989;Muscarella et al., 1996) and physically stronger (Fink et al., 2007), particularly by other men (Dixson et al., 2013). Additionally, beards enhance ratings of men's age, self-confidence and social status (Kenny et al., 1973;Neave et al., 2008;Pancer et al., 1978;Pellegrini et al., 2007;Roll et al., 1971). ...
... However, findings on female perceptions of male beards are equivocal. Some studies suggest that women prefer beards (Dixson et al., 2013;Hatfield et al., 1986;Reed et al., 1990), whereas others indicate that women favor clean-shaven men (Dixson et al., 2012;Feinman et al., 1977;Muscarella et al., 1996;Wogalter et al., 1991). These mixed results indirectly suggest that beards are more beneficial for intrasexual, rather than intersexual competition: beards may signal men's dominance and aggression toward other men. ...
... Our study is the first to use physical measurements to assess participants' facial hair length. Previous studies have mainly relied on self-reports based on a four-class categorization of male facial hair: clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble and full bearded (Dixson et al., 2013Janif et al., 2014). Our findings confirm that providing participants with visual stimuli is a valid and reliable method to assess beardedness, as the results showed a strong correlation between self-reported and direct measures of beardedness. ...
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The male beard is one of the most visually salient and sexually dimorphic traits and a hypothesized potential marker of other traits, such as dominance, masculinity, social status, and self-confidence. However, as men can easily alter their facial hair, beards may provide unreliable information about the beard owner’s characteristics. Here, we examined whether beards are honest signals of biological (testosterone levels) and psychological (self-reported dominance) traits. Young (M = 21.29, SD = 1.54) and healthy men (N = 97) participated in the study. Their beards were measured directly (using digital calipers) and by self-report. Participants provided saliva samples before and after acute exercise (to assess their testosterone and cortisol levels) and reported their dominance on a 5-item scale. The results showed that beard length (directly measured and self-reported) was not related to testosterone levels or dominance; thus, no evidence was found to support the hypothesis that beards are honest (or dishonest) signals of the beard owners’ testosterone levels and dominance.
... Beards positively influence judgments of men's age (Neave & Shields, 2008), masculinity (Addison, 1989;Dixson & Brooks, 2013), social status (Dixson & Vasey, 2012), dominance (Saxton et al., 2016;Sherlock et al., 2017), strength (Gray et al., 2020;Nelson et al., 2019), and aggressiveness Mefodeva et al., 2020;Muscarella & Cunningham, 1996). Compared to clean-shaven men, bearded men report stronger feelings of masculinity (Wood, 1986), higher dominance and assertiveness , and men desire facial hair more for themselves than among their male contemporaries (Jach & Moroń, 2020). ...
... Facial hair may enhance perceptions of male age, dominance, and aggressiveness by embellishing underlying masculine facial morphology, including the prominence of the midface and thickness of the jaw (Goodhart, 1960;Guthrie, 1970). Indeed, ratings of intra-sexually relevant traits increase linearly with the quantity of facial hair, with bearded faces receiving the highest ratings of masculinity, dominance, and aggressiveness followed by heavy stubble, then light stubble, with clean-shaveness rated lowest (Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Neave & Shields, 2008). Experimentally increasing facial masculinity via computer graphics techniques in clean-shaven, stubbled, and full bearded faces revealed men's dominance ratings for masculine over feminine faces were strongest within clean-shaven faces but decreased as facial hair increased . ...
... There were no differences in masculinity perceptions due to facial expressions. These results lend further support to past studies reporting masculinity ratings rise linearly with increasing facial hair (Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Neave & Shields, 2008), demonstrating that the presence of stubble on the facial regions reflecting the most pronounced sexual dimorphism, notably the prominence of the jaw, causatively determine judgments of facial masculinity (Dixson, 2018;. Analyses of men photographed when clean-shaven and with full beards found that while objective measures of facial masculinity and jaw size were positively associated with masculinity and dominance ratings, these effects were far smaller than the main effects of beardedness (Dixson et al., 2017a). ...
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Objectives To test whether intra-sexual selection has influenced perceptions of male facial hair. We predicted that beards would increase the speed and accuracy of perceptions of angry but not happy facial expressions. We also predicted that bearded angry faces would receive the highest explicit ratings of masculinity and aggressiveness, whereas higher prosociality ratings would be ascribed to clean-shaven happy faces.MethodsA total of 106 participants, ranging from 17 to 59 years of age (M = 27.27, SD = 10.03); 59 were female and 47 were male (44.3%) completed an emotion categorization tasks and an explicit ratings task. Participants viewed faces of the same men when bearded, clean-shaven, and 10 days of natural growth (i.e. stubble) when posing angry and happy facial expressions.ResultsAngry facial expressions were categorised most rapidly and with the greatest accuracy on bearded faces, followed by faces with stubble then clean-shaven faces. Conversely, happy facial expressions were categorised most rapidly and with the greatest accuracy on clean-shaven faces, followed by stubbled faces then bearded faces. Irrespective of facial expression, full bearded faces received the highest ratings of masculinity followed by faces with stubble then clean-shaven faces. Aggressiveness ratings were highest for angry faces with full beards, followed by angry faces with stubble, with clean-shaven angry faces receiving the lowest ratings. In contrast to our prediction, bearded smiling faces were rated as significantly more prosocial than stubbled and clean-shaven smiling faces.Conclusions These findings contribute further evidence that men’s beardedness represents an intra-sexually selected badge of status that enhances nonverbal threat potentially by augmenting underlying masculine facial structures.
... Compared to clean-shaven states, beards increase ratings of masculinity, age, social dominance, and aggressiveness Nelson et al., 2019), potentially by enhancing underlying masculine facial structure and jaw size (Dixson et al., 2017a;Mefodeva et al., 2020;Sherlock et al., 2017) Why then do men remove such a prominent cue of sexual maturity and masculinity? Women's mate preferences for bearded partners vary considerably across studies (Gray et al., 2020;Valentova et al., 2017), and there is no evidence that facial hair is more attractive among women at the periovulatory phase measured using questionnaires (Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Dixson et al., 2013;Dixson & Rantala, 2016) and hormonally (Dixson et al., 2018a, b). Instead, patterns in facial hair styles in London from 1842 to 1971 showed peaks in the popularity of beardedness during years with fewer women than men in the marriage market (Barber, 2001), possibly reflecting that men groom their facial hair in response to the degree of beardedness among their contemporaries. ...
... Compared to clean-shaven states, beards increase ratings of masculinity, age, social dominance, and aggressiveness Nelson et al., 2019), potentially by enhancing underlying masculine facial structure and jaw size (Dixson et al., 2017a;Mefodeva et al., 2020;Sherlock et al., 2017) Why then do men remove such a prominent cue of sexual maturity and masculinity? Women's mate preferences for bearded partners vary considerably across studies (Gray et al., 2020;Valentova et al., 2017), and there is no evidence that facial hair is more attractive among women at the periovulatory phase measured using questionnaires (Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Dixson et al., 2013;Dixson & Rantala, 2016) and hormonally (Dixson et al., 2018a, b). Instead, patterns in facial hair styles in London from 1842 to 1971 showed peaks in the popularity of beardedness during years with fewer women than men in the marriage market (Barber, 2001), possibly reflecting that men groom their facial hair in response to the degree of beardedness among their contemporaries. ...
... Other research reported beards were more common in countries where average incomes are lower, urban development is greater, women's preferences for beards are stronger, and sex ratios are more male-biased (Dixson et al., 2017c(Dixson et al., , 2019b. Further, beards increase attractiveness ratings for long-term relationships and parenting skills (Dixson & Brooks, 2013;Neave & Shields, 2008), including among mothers with young infants (Dixson et al., 2019a), and women in long-term relationships with bearded partners have higher reproductive success than women with non-bearded partners (Štěrbová et al., 2019). Thus, beards may be an ornamental feature that communicates men's age, masculinity, and aspects of social dominance that, in turn, may be perceived as sexually attractive for long-term and coparenting relationships rather than short-term relationships. ...
... 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. ...
Article
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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.
... Another caveat for muscularity necessitates consideration of other androgendependent cues that alternatively heighten perceptions of paternal ability. Facial hair connotes paternal ability (Dixson & Brooks, 2013), though it does not connote actual fighting ability (Dixson et al., 2018). These competing signal values suggest certain masculine feature connote LTM orientation, potentially rooted in parental dominance. ...
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Identifying reproductive opportunities and intrasexual rivals has necessitated the evolution of sensitivity to features diagnostic of mate value. In determining the presence of good genes through physical features, individuals may additionally infer targets’ short- and long-term mating orientations. This study tested how individuals perceive men and women’s orientations through physical features conducive to reproductive goals. Participants evaluated mating orientations of male and female targets varying in size of sex-typical features (i.e., muscles or breasts) and adiposity. Greater adiposity connoted long-term mating orientations. Large muscles and breasts connoted short-term mating orientations. We frame results from an affordance management framework with respect to inferences regarding parental investment and intrasexual competition.
... Other forms of hair, particularly facial hair, have been shown to affect female judgements of male mate value in specific social roles. For example, Dixson and Brooks (2013) report women found beards more attractive when considering fathering abilities than when considering sexual attractiveness. Others have documented that preferences for beards are strongest for long-term relationships and when assessing fathering potential Stower et al., 2020). ...
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The question of whether or not cranial hair affects perceptions of attractiveness, personality, career success, and other traits related to fitness for men in two populations was investigated in two experiments. Experiment 1 used a 2 (race) × 2 (cranial hair of man) design, and examined attractiveness, fitness, and socially desirable personality measures. Experiment 2 used a 2 (race) × 2 (cranial hair) design to determine perceived attractiveness, fitness-related traits, and the Big-5 dimensions of personality. Amount of cranial hair did not affect personality ratings on the dimensions of the Big-5 but did affect perceived socially desired aspects of personality (such as warmth, sophistication, kindness, etc.). In Experiment 1, the White man with hair received higher perceived attractiveness, personality, and fitness ratings than the bald White man, while no differences occurred for the Black men. For Experiment 2, when differences for amount of cranial hair occurred, the White man with hair and the Black man without hair received higher perceived fitness and career success ratings. These results are discussed in terms of prior research on male cranial hair.
... Additionally, research in the field of sociology suggests that beards may also convey competency, attractiveness, and maturity. [22][23][24] This study investigated how PPE guidance changed the facial hair of doctors working at a teaching hospital and whether these changes adhered to guidance set by PHE, while exploring the wider impacts and implications of these changes on individuals. 26 To ensure maximal inclusion, and avoid discrimination, hospital doctors of all genders and demographics were invited to take part. ...
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Objectives To investigate how personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance altered the facial hair of hospital doctors and explore the wider impact and implications of these changes. Methods A single site uncontrolled before‐after survey study examining change in facial hairstyles, and wider implications on doctor's cultural, religious, and personal wellbeing. Outcome measures included change in facial hair between January and April 2020 and whether these changes adhered to guidance set by Public Health England. Participants were also asked about the wider impact of these changes which were thematically analyzed using an inductive approach. Results Of those who completed the survey, 257 participants met the inclusion criteria. 68% (n = 67) of doctors who could grow facial hair changed their facial hairstyle during the COVID‐19 pandemic and 96% (n = 64) reported that the change was in response to PPE guidance. The odds of having a facial hairstyle that complied with PPE guidance before the pandemic was 0.32, which rose to 2.77 after guidance was released, giving an odds ratio of 8.54 (95% CI 4.49‐16.23, P < .001). When compared to those who sported a shaven face prepandemic, the odds ratio of a change in style for those with prepandemic full beards was 37.92 (95% CI 7.45‐192.8, P < .001), for goatees was 7.22 (95% CI 1.076‐48.47, P = .04), for moustaches was 4.33 (95% CI 0.207‐90.85, P = .345), and for stubble was 9.06 (95% CI 2.133‐38.49, P = .003). Qualitative analysis revealed multiple themes, including skin irritation, loss of identity, and a significant impact on participants required to maintain a beard due to religious or cultural reasons. Conclusions Facial hairstyles have changed significantly at our hospital during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Facial hair can impact upon doctors' cultural, religious, and personal wellbeing and these factors need to be considered with policy and provision of PPE.
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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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This mixed method study explores importance of and influences on men’s grooming behaviors and appearance concerns. Survey data from 83 men based in the United Kingdom showed high social media users engaged in significantly more grooming behaviors than low users. Gay men viewed grooming as significantly more important and implemented more grooming habits than straight men. Qualitative responses yielded themes relating to standards set by traditional media and the blurring of boundaries between traditional and new forms of (social) media. Themes reflected the freedom and constraints of sexuality in relation to grooming as well as the management of attraction and status. More research is needed to consider the impact grooming pressures and influences might have on men in the future.
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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.
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