Surgical masks could well increase our beauty capital in the eyes of our fellow human beings! In any case, this is the conclusion of a British study conducted by Cardiff University and published on January 10 in the journal Cognitive Research (source 1).
To do this, the researchers interviewed 43 women aged 18 to 24, in February 2021. Their mission? Assess the beauty of a group of men alternately wearing a cloth mask, a surgical mask, a black notebook on the lower part of their face.
“Our study suggests that faces are considered most attractive when covered with surgical masks“explains Dr. Michael Lewis, co-author of the study and professor of psychology at Cardiff University, to the British newspaper The Guardian (source 2).
According to the results obtained, a face considered attractive is even more so when wearing a surgical mask, compared to when it is bare, or even when the lower half is hidden by a cotton mask or a notebook.
Similarly, a face deemed unattractive when bare is deemed more attractive when wearing a surgical mask.
One of Dr. Michael Lewis’ hypotheses is that the mask focuses more attention on the eyes. On the other hand, other studies have shown that by covering one half of the face vertically (the right half or the left half), participants also found people more attractive, because “the brain fills in the missing gaps and exaggerates the overall impact“.
Note: a second similar study was conducted to collect the opinion of men concerning the beauty of women wearing or not wearing a mask. It has not yet been published, but Dr Lewis assures the Guardian that similar results were observed.
Masked faces are also considered more reassuring
Another observation: the face of men wearing a disposable surgical mask is considered more reassuring. “Maybe it’s because we’re used to carers wearing blue face masks and now associate them with people practicing medical or care professions“, explains Michael Lewis.
At a time when one feels vulnerable, one may find wearing medical masks reassuring and thus feel more positive towards the wearer.
And to conclude:the pandemic has changed the way we perceive people who wear a mask. When you see someone wearing a mask, you no longer think ‘this person has a disease, I have to stay away'”.