‘You’re cute, I think’: face masks make people more attractive

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CARDIFF, UK (StudyFinds.org) – Do face masks actually help some people in the dating scene? As well as helping to curb the spread of COVID-19, Cardiff University researchers have found that masks can actually make wearers more attractive.

Scientists assessed how different types of face masks “changed attractiveness” among a group of 40 men. This process led to the conclusion that blue medical masks increase the attractiveness of most wearers. So maybe grab some before your next date!

“Research conducted before the pandemic found that medical face masks reduced attractiveness – so we wanted to test if this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand if the type of mask had an effect,” explains the Dr Michael Lewis, of Cardiff’s School of Psychologist and specialist in the psychology of faces, in a university outing.

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

“We also found that faces are considered much more attractive when covered by cloth masks than when uncovered. Part of this effect may result from the ability to hide unwanted features in the lower part of the face – but this effect was present for both the less attractive and the more attractive people,” adds the researcher.

The pandemic is changing the perception of mask wearers

To adjust attraction, 43 women judged each man’s face in four scenarios: without a mask, while wearing a cloth mask, while wearing a blue medical mask, and while holding a plain black book covering the area that a face mask would conceal. The women rated attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10.

“The findings run counter to pre-pandemic research where masks were thought to make people think about illness and the person should be avoided,” notes Dr Lewis. “Current research shows that 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 annoyance. We can now observe a change in our psychology, so that face masks no longer act as a signal of contamination, ”concludes Lewis.

The team notes that it conducted this work in February 2021, around seven months after face masks became mandatory in the UK. Further research is already underway to test how face masks influence the attractiveness of female faces.

the results appear in the newspaper Principles and implications of cognitive research.

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