As the only truly bearded editor at EFTM, this news saddens me. Scientists in New Zealand and Canada have concluded that men with beards may look older and more distinguished to women, but that comes at the price of sexual attraction. Damn.

The study used both bearded and clean shaven photographs of 19 different men from both European and Polynesian backgrounds. The photos were shown off to 200 different women, who were asked to rate the attractiveness, as well as aggressiveness of the men. The results were conclusive – the ladies prefer a clean-shaven chap, although recognise that the bearded man looks more distinguished, older and wiser than his bald-faced counterparts. He also appears much more aggressive when bearded, leading the researchers to conclude that the beard’s evolutionary function is to enhance a man’s social status.

Or, as explained by an extract from the research paper:

Darwin posited that beards evolved in human ancestors via female choice as a highly attractive masculine adornment. Others have since proposed that beards evolved as a signal of male status and dominance. Here, we show that women from two very different ethnic groups, Europeans from New Zealand and Polynesians from Samoa, do not rate bearded male faces as more attractive than clean-shaven faces. Women and men from both cultures judge bearded faces to be older and ascribe them higher social status than the same men when clean-shaven. Images of bearded men displaying an aggressive facial expression were also rated as significantly more aggressive than the same men when clean-shaven. Thus, the beard appears to augment the effectiveness of human aggressive facial displays. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the human beard evolved primarily via intrasexual selection between males and as part of complex facial communication signaling status and aggressiveness.

To check on this report’s validity, I took my bearded face to the only expert I know on the topic – my wife. Here’s the general gist of how the conversation happened:

Me: “Babe, do you think my beard makes me look distinguished?”
Wife: “Nope.”
Me: “Do you think it makes me more attractive?”
Wife: “No.”
Me: “Then how does it make me look?”
Wife: “Scruffy.”


Web: Behavioural Ecology
Via: Gizmodo
Image: Flickr user c r i s