You might have taken another look if you saw someone wearing a face mask on the street a few years ago. However, recent research reveals that someone wearing a surgical face mask may capture your sight for a different reason.
A research study displayed 40 male faces to female participants. Men were considered between the ages of 18 and 30 and of ‘lower to high attractiveness.’ Each face was exhibited in several states: half-covered by a cloth mask, a surgical mask, a book, and not covered at all. On a scale of one to ten, the 43 female participants were asked to judge the attractiveness of the male face in each state.
The results revealed that they were deemed the most attractive when a medical mask covered faces. The participants also thought the faces they saw were more appealing when wearing a cotton mask rather than not wearing one at all.
The Cardiff University School of Psychology researchers conducted the study in 2021. However, it only showed female participants’ male faces and not multiple variants. Dr. Michael Lewis, the study’s co-author, stated that the study was conducted to investigate if the pandemic has impacted people’s thoughts and attitudes regarding face masks.
Masks were shown to lessen a person’s attractiveness in a comparable study done in Japan in 2016. However, the pandemic appears to have impacted what makes someone more or less beautiful, just as it has influenced every other aspect of our lives.
“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,” Dr. Lewis said.
“The current research shows 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,” he added.
Furthermore, Dr. Lewis stated that the enhanced attractiveness of a person – in this example might be linked to the relationship we have with healthcare providers and blue masks.
“At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find the wearing of medical masks reassuring and so feel more positive towards the wearer,” he said.
According to the university, more research is being done with female and male respondents to see if the results are the same for both genders.