With COVID-19 taking over our lives, everywhere we go we are wearing mask, coving up our faces. How does this impact how people rate other’s attractiveness? Does it make it worse because we can’t see each other’s faces?
In Japan, wearing facemasks was common before the pandemic, if you had to go to go out while feeling under the weather or if you just didn’t want to do your makeup that day, you’d wear a mask.
A group of researchers wanted to know how that impacted perceptions of attractiveness (prior to the pandemic) and asked 202 Japanese women and 84 Japanese men if female facial attractiveness went up of down, and if they thought the person wearing the mask was healthy, unhealthy or neither. They then recreated this study after the pandemic started with 153 men and 133 women.
The results showed that increased attractiveness went up from pre-pandemic mask wearing to intra-pandemic mask wearing, from 44% increased attractiveness while wearing a mask, to 70%. Also, the number of participants who thought the mask wears were unhealthy fell, while those who thought the mask wearers were healthy or neither, went up.
In two follow up studies the researchers found that masks would increase the attractiveness of female faces when their “baseline attractiveness” was low, and decrease their attractiveness when their “baseline attractiveness” was high. It made no impact on those with an average “baseline attractiveness”. The researchers believe this is due to the masks hiding critical features, both positive and negative.
Of course there are limitations to their studies, as most of the participants and mask wearers were young Japanese people.