Here’s a question for you – of the four faces shown above, which one do you find most attractive?
In a recent study, 43 women were asked to judge the attractiveness of a group of 40 men’s faces across four scenarios: without a mask, while wearing a cloth mask, while wearing a blue medical face mask, and while holding a plain black book covering the area a face mask would conceal.
Prior to showing the faces to the women, the 40 men’s faces were categorized into the 20 most attractive and the 20 least attractive, based on previous studies. (Now I know why those researchers kept bugging me for a headshot – they needed to get more people into that least attractive group.)
The study ran as follows: the women were shown one face at a time, in random order. There were a total of 160 faces to look at (40 men, each one of them photographed in each of the four scenarios shown in the photo above). The women were asked to rate the attractiveness of each face on a scale of 1-7.
The results, shown in the chart below, indicated that the most attractive face was the one covered with a blue medical mask, followed by a cloth mask, then covered with a book, and finally, no covering. This was true for both the attractive group and the unattractive groups.
The study also notes that research carried out before the pandemic found medical face masks reduce attractiveness.
Here is one possible explanation offered by the researchers as to why that thinking has changed: “we’re used to healthcare workers wearing blue masks and now we associate these with people in caring or medical professions. At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find the wearing of medical masks reassuring and so feel more positive towards the wearer.”
So I can’t wait for my Amazon order of blue masks to arrive. While it may not move me from the unattractive to the attractive group, any improvement would be most welcome…
Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications (this is where the images came from as well)