Face masks may have been among the more divisive problems of the COVID-19 pandemic, but those who don’t like wearing one may change their minds now that academics have discovered that people look more attractive when they wear one.
Yes, we know they cover half of your face, but a team of experts from Cardiff University has found that wearing a mask, especially a blue medical mask, increases your facial attractiveness.
dr. Michael Lewis, of the university’s School of Psychology and an expert in facial psychology, said prior to the pandemic research, medical face masks were found to reduce attractiveness.
His team wanted to see if the “ubiquitous” use of face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 since 2020 has changed people’s perceptions of those who wear them.
The study measured how different types of face masks changed the attractiveness of 40 male faces.
A group of women were asked to rate the attractiveness of images of male faces without a mask, wearing a cloth mask, a blue medical mask, and with a black book covering the area a mask would hide, on a scale from one to ten.
The survey was conducted in February 2021, seven months after face masks became mandatory in the UK.
What did the study find?
dr. Lewis said: “Our study suggests that faces are considered most attractive when covered by medical face masks. This may be because we are used to health professionals wearing blue masks and now we associate them with people in healthcare or medical professions.
“At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find wearing medical masks reassuring and so feel more positive towards the wearer.
“We also found that faces are perceived as significantly more attractive when covered with cloth masks than when uncovered.
“Part of this effect may be due to being able to hide unwanted features in the lower part of the face — but this effect was present for both less attractive and more attractive people.”
dr. Lewis added: “The current research shows that 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 should stay away’.
“This relates to evolutionary psychology and why we select the mates that we do. Disease and evidence of disease can play a huge role in mate selection — previously, all signals to disease would be a big turnoff. Now we can see a shift in our psychology so that face masks no longer act as a contagion signal.”
The university now plans to conduct research to see if the same results occur in female faces.