Women find men who wear full beards more suitable for long-term relationships, suggests new research.
Women tend to find beardedness attractive when judging long-term relationships, perhaps as a signal of formidability among males and the potential to provide direct benefits, such as enhanced fertility and survival, to females, the study said.
‘Women perceived beardedness as a sign of masculine formidability and the potential to provide direct benefits to females like enhanced fertility, parenting ability, healthiness and survival.’
For the study published online in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology
, female volunteers judged stubble as the most attractive facial hairstyle and reported preferring men with stubble over men with a full beard when looking for a short-term relationship.
However, the women judged full beards as being more attractive for long-term relationships. Faces that had been digitally altered to look either extremely masculine or extremely feminine were judged as being least attractive, regardless of any type of relationship context.
For the study, Barnaby Dixson from University of Queensland in Australia and his colleagues recruited ,520 women and used computer graphic manipulation to morph male faces varying in facial hair from clean-shaven, light stubble, heavy stubble, and full beards, with additional differences in brow ridge, cheekbones, jawline, and other features so that the same man appeared more or less masculine.
Stubble was judged as most attractive overall and received higher ratings for short-term relationships than full beards, which were more attractive for long-term relationships.
Extremely masculine and extremely feminine-looking males were least attractive, irrespective of relationship context.
"Results showed a significant interaction between beardedness and masculinity on attractiveness ratings. Sexual selection via female choice has shaped the evolution of male ornamentation in many species." the study said.
Women rated men with full beards as highest for perceived parenting ability and healthiness. Interestingly, as facial hair increased, women's ratings of masculinity increased, too.