Face masks make people more attractive, study finds | Coronavirus

There have been very few bright spots during the Covid pandemic, but British academics may have discovered one: people look more attractive in face masks.

Researchers from Cardiff University were surprised to find that both men and women were deemed to look better with a face covering that concealed the lower half of their face.

In what may be a blow to producers of fashionable coverings – and to the environment – ​​they also discovered that a face covered with a disposable type surgical mask was likely to be judged the most attractive.

Dr Michael Lewis, a reader from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology and an expert on faces, said research conducted before the pandemic had found that medical face masks reduced attractiveness because they were associated with disease or a disease.

“We wanted to test if this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand if the type of mask had an effect,” he said.

“Our study suggests that faces are considered more attractive when covered by medical masks. This may be because we are used to healthcare workers wearing blue masks and associate them with now to caregivers or medical people. At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find wearing medical masks reassuring and therefore feel more positive about the wearer.

The first part of the research was carried out in February 2021, by which time the UK population had become accustomed to wearing masks in certain circumstances. Forty-three women were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 the attractiveness of images of male faces without a mask, wearing a plain cloth mask, a blue medical mask and holding a plain black book covering the area with a face mask would hide.

Participants said those who wore a cloth mask were significantly more attractive than those who had no mask or whose face was partially obscured by the book. But the surgical mask – which was just a normal, disposable type – made the wearer even better.

“The findings run counter to pre-pandemic research where masks were thought to make people think about illness and the person should be avoided,” Lewis said.

“The pandemic has changed our psychology in how we perceive mask wearers. When you see someone wearing a mask you no longer think ‘this person has a disease, I have to stay away’.

“It’s about evolutionary psychology and why we select the mates we choose. Illness and signs of illness can play a big role in mate selection – previously any sign of illness would be a big hurdle. We can now observe a change in our psychology, so that face masks no longer act as a signal of contamination.

Lewis said it’s also possible masks make people more attractive because they direct attention to the eyes. He said other studies have shown that covering the left or right half of a face also makes people more attractive, in part because the brain fills in the missing gaps and exaggerates the overall impact.

The results of the first study has been published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. A second study was carried out, in which a group of men look at masked women; it hasn’t been released yet, but Lewis said the results were broadly the same. The researchers did not ask the participants to specify their sexual orientations.

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