Keep that surgical mask on, UK study says women find it most appealing

Keep that surgical mask on, UK study says women find it most appealing

Women have always found men in white coats (doctors) attractive. But, call it the COVID effect in a pandemic era, a new study conducted by Cardiff University in the UK showed that today people wearing surgical masks are found to be the most appealing than people not wearing a mask or even covered with a cloth mask.

A 2022 study published in the ‘Cognitive Research Journal’ titled ‘Beyond the beauty of occlusion: medical masks increase facial attractiveness more than other face coverings’, has found that “faces were considered as most attractive when covered by medical masks and significantly more attractive when occluded with cloth masks than when not occluded.” Medical masks are more attractive than other face coverings, established the study.

This is quite contrary to how people used to view medical face masks. It used to give the impression of a disease and was not looked on as something that would increase the attractiveness of a wearer like a fashionable hat. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, medical masks have been found to enhance a person’s attractiveness. This could probably be because the mask evokes the image of caregivers and feelings of concern during the pandemic times. Or, to be more practical, it could hide some undesirable element in the lower part of a person’s face.

Also read: Young adults and males infected more with Omicron: Study

In the research, women were asked to rate the attractiveness of the images of male faces that were shown to them on a scale of one to 10. Female participants were presented with a series of male faces: one with wearing a medical mask, one with a cloth mask, one without a mask and another with a book covering the lower half of a face which is usually the area that is masked.

The results revealed that the faces which were considered as most attractive were the ones which were covered by medical masks. And faces covered with cloth masks were significantly more attractive than those who were not masked or partially covered with a book. The findings stated that disposable surgical masks were considered the most appealing as opposed to the more fashionable varieties.

The study went on to add that though people in countries like UK never wore masks, medical masks or sanitary masks are routinely used for health reasons in Japan, where people are highly particular about their personal hygiene practices. Moreover, masks are also customary in China as a protection from air pollution, despite concerns about their efficacy.

It further stated that “unattractive and averagely attractive faces were rated as significantly more attractive when in the masked compared to unmasked condition”. According to the study, these results seem to suggest that there is a major psychological shift in the factors that are at play while choosing a partner in the pandemic.

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