To shave or not to shave, that is the question
To shave or not to shave, that is the question

December 4, 2012

paulvasey1nov82012web

As Movember winds down around the world, men will be faced (pardon the pun) with a few serious decisions – to keep their new moustache, add a beard, or to shave it off.

A University of Lethbridge researcher has some advice, based on research conducted in New Zealand and Samoa, which could help.

Dr. Paul Vasey, a behaviour and evolutionary psychology researcher, worked with colleague Dr. Barnaby Dixson (University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia) to test an evolutionary theory that holds that beards evolve for one of two possible purposes (or maybe both):

1. to attract female mates and
2. to scare off male sexual competitors

The upside? The researchers found that men with beards were rated as older, of higher status and potentially more aggressive by both New Zealand and Samoan men and women.

The downside? These two different cultural groups, in particular women, were reportedly less attracted to men with beards than they were to clean shaven men.

The researchers displayed natural photographs of men with and without full beards posing with neutral, smiling and angry facial expressions.

In both cultures they found that men and women judged faces with full beards as looking older and more socially dominant. Men in both cultures also judged bearded faces posing angry facial expressions as most aggressive.

However, women judged clean-shaven faces as more attractive than bearded faces.

The researchers indicate that, although further research is certainly required, these findings suggest that beards play a stronger role in signaling a man’s age, social status and potential threat than in augmenting physical attractiveness.

Their research was published in the Journal of Behavioural Ecology.


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