Researchers from Cardiff University were surprised to find out that both men and women are looking more attractive with a face mask covering the lower part of their faces.
“We wanted to test whether this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand whether the type of mask had any effect,” Dr Michael Lewis Cardiff University’s school of psychology and an expert in faces said.
“Our study suggests faces are considered most attractive when covered by medical face masks. This may be because 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.”
The first part of the research was carried out in February 2021 by which time the British population had become used to wearing masks in some circumstances. Forty-three women were asked to rate on a scale of one to 10 the attractiveness of images of male faces without a mask, wearing a plain cloth mask, a blue medical face mask, and holding a plain black book covering the area a face mask would hide.
The participants said those wearing a cloth mask were significantly more attractive than the ones with no masks or whose faces were partly obscured by the book. But the surgical mask – which was just a normal, disposable kind – made the wearer look even better.
“The results run counter to the pre-pandemic research where it was thought masks made people think about disease and the person should be avoided,” said Lewis.
“The pandemic has changed our psychology in how we perceive the wearers of masks. When we see someone wearing a mask we no longer think ‘that person has a disease, I need to stay away.
“This relates to evolutionary psychology and why we select the partners we do. Disease and evidence of disease can play a big role in mate selection – previously any cues to disease would be a big turn-off. Now we can observe a shift in our psychology such that face masks are no longer acting as a contamination cue.”
Main Articles: The Guardian UK