There have been a few positives throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, including a British scholar’s discovery that wearing protective masks make people look more attractive.
Researchers at Cardiff University conducted the study titled “Beyond the beauty of occlusion: medical masks increase facial attractiveness more than other face coverings” were stunned to learn that a face that is covered with a disposable type surgical mask in the lower half of a person was likely to make them look better.
Dr. Michael Lewis, a reader at Cardiff University’s faculty of psychology and a face expert, said that prior to the pandemic, research had revealed that medical face masks diminished attractiveness because they were connected with disease or illness.
However, their recent study has changed since more people are wearing face masks. “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,” said Lewis.
The first phase of the study was completed in February 2021, by which time the British public had grown accustomed to wearing masks in certain situations.
On a scale of one to 10, 43 women were asked to judge the attractiveness 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 on a scale of one to ten.
Participants thought those who wore a fabric mask were more attractive than those who didn’t wear one or whose faces were partially concealed. However, the surgical mask – which was just a regular, disposable sort — enhanced the wearer’s appearance.
“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,” Lewis said, adding that the findings could also be a way to know the social cues that a potential partner picks upon.
It’s also possible, according to Lewis, that masks make people more appealing by drawing attention to their eyes. Other research had found that covering the left or right half of the face made people appear more attractive, partially because the brain fills in the missing gaps and magnifies the overall effect, he added.
The first study’s findings were just published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. A second study was conducted in which a group of men observed women wearing masks; the results have yet to be published, but Lewis said they were similar. The individuals were not asked to specify their sexual orientations by the researchers.