New research has uncovered an unlikely benefit from wearing face masks. The study from Cardiff University, published in the Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications journal, has found that face masks make us more attractive – at least for men.
In the study, 43 female participants were tasked with measuring the apparent attractiveness of 40 males faces without a mask; wearing a cloth mask; a blue medical mask and covering the area a face mask would hide with a plain black book.
The results found that faces were considered more attractive when covered by masks than when not.
Surprisingly, blue medical masks topped the attractiveness list, with researchers suggesting it may have something to do with their association with medical professionals.
“Our study suggests faces are considered most attractive when covered by medical face masks. This may be because we’re used to healthcare workers wearing blue masks and now we associate these with people in caring or medical professions. At a time when we feel vulnerable, we may find the wearing of medical masks reassuring and so feel more positive towards the wearer,” said Dr Michael Lewis from Cardiff University’s School of Psychology.
‘The results run counter to the pre-pandemic research where it was thought masks made people think about disease and the person should be avoided.”
“The current research shows 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 Dr Lewis.
“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. Now we can observe a shift in our psychology such that face masks are no longer acting as a contamination cue.”
The study authors say further research is being conducted to see of the results are true for both genders.