If you still need convincing to wear a mask after nearly two years of this pandemic, this is your wake-up call.
In a study published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, Cardiff University researchers Oliver Hies and Michael B. Lewis discovered that wearing a face mask makes people appear more attractive.
Previous research conducted prior to the pandemic found that face masks were associated with the disease; thus, those who wore them scored lower in terms of facial attractiveness than those who did not.
The Tables Have Been Turned
“We wanted to test whether this had changed since face coverings became ubiquitous and understand whether the type of mask had any effect,” said Lewis of Cardiff University’s school of psychology.
Wearing face masks has increased one’s perceived attractiveness since the pandemic. This was thought to be due to occlusion because negative facial features could be easily concealed with a face mask.
Another factor, according to Hies and Lewis’ research, is: “According to our findings, people find medical face masks to be the most attractive. This could be because we’re accustomed to seeing healthcare workers wear blue masks, and we’ve come to associate them with people in caring or medical professions. When we are feeling vulnerable, we may find the wearing of medical masks reassuring and thus feel more positive towards the wearer.”
The female study participants were shown four images of the same man with various face coverings: a medical mask, a cloth mask, a book covering half his face, and finally, no covering at all.
The image with the medical mask received the highest rating for attractiveness. Even the image with a cloth mask outperformed the one with no mask at all.
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Noting the shift in perception from pre-pandemic times, Lewis stated that the pandemic has altered our psychology, and we no longer feel the need to avoid people wearing masks.
“This is related to evolutionary psychology and why we choose the partners that we do,” he explained. “Disease and evidence of disease can play a significant role in mate selection – previously, any indication of disease would be a major turn-off. Face masks are no longer acting as a contamination cue, indicating a shift in our psychology.”
My Gaze Is Directed Upwards
Lewis has also acknowledged that face masks may make people appear more attractive because they draw attention to the eyes. Furthermore, some studies have found that covering either side of the face can make people appear more attractive, partly because our brains fill in the missing gaps, exaggerating the overall effect.
While the results of the second study, which used images of a woman in masks on a male study group, have not yet been published, Lewis has stated that the results were similar; masking up helps both males and females look better.