How Covid-19 masks influence the psychology of facial attractiveness, according to science
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Wearing a face mask has even more advantageous effects than helping curb the spread of Covid-19 (which is already quite impressive). According to a recent study, sporting the PPE has actually been found to increase one’s attractiveness, which researchers at Hokkaido University have coined the “the sanitary-mask effect.”

“Because the impact of Covid-19 is so strong, we wondered if the mask-wearing that became an ordinary behavior would alter our perception of attractiveness,” study author Jun Kawahara, a professor at Hokkaido University, told PsyPost. “We thought it would be interesting if we compare the present data with the one that we measured before COVID-19.”

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And that they did. Kawahara and the Hokkaido team examined the findings of a 2016 study on facial attractiveness whilst mask-wearing, which asked 202 Japanese women and 84 Japanese men whether they perceived sanity masks as improving or impairing individual’s attractiveness. The same team then queried 153 men and 133 women on the same topic after the COVID-19 outbreak, surveying participants from June to December 2020.

In the initial, pre-pandemic experiment, only 44 percent of participants said that wearing a mask made the wearer more attractive. However that number skyrocketed post-Covid, with a a whopping 70 percent of people stating that masks improved the wearer’s appearance when queried in 2020.

The Hokkaido researchers then conducted a series of web-based experiments in 2020 and 2021, during which they requested participants to rate the attractiveness of 66 young female faces. Half of the faces wore masks, while half did not.

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Based on the participants’ responses, the researchers concluded that “the modulation of attractiveness by mask-wearing is related to the occlusion of critical features.” Essentially: Masks have the ability to “hide” negative features of less conventionally attractive faces, but at the same time, diminish positive features on conventionally beautiful ones. When it came to “average” female faces, however, mask wearing had “no significant impact.”

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Either way, Kawahara asserts that wearing a mask is more important than what you look like. “People don’t have to worry about how they are seen by others,” he told PsyPost. “The data suggests that the average person may not be seen more attractive or less attractive. Just wear masks if not vaccinated.”

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