Long Hair? Men Care! – The Body Language of Woman’s Hair
Norbert Mesko and Thomas Bereczkei of the University of Pécs did some interesting research on different woman’s hairstyles and how certain hairstyles may be designed from an evolutionary standpoint to signal high phenotypic quality and good health.
It turns out that the women who can afford the time and financial costs of maintaining long hair have good phenotypic (it looks good to the eye) as well as genotypic quality (it’s written in the genes and is heritable).
The researchers examined a few different hairstyles.
In this experiment, male raters first viewed photos of women without any visible hair on their heads, and rated them on attractiveness using a scale ranging from 1 (least attractive) to 6 (most attractive). Next, the researchers took the 10 most attractive faces and the 10 least attractive faces and presented them to another group of male raters with additional photos, where their task was to rate each face on its youth, femininity, health and sexiness. The hairstyles viewed by these raters were either short, medium, long, dishevelled, knot (bun), or unkempt.
They found however, that “only long and medium-length hair had a significant positive effect on ratings of women’s attractiveness; the other hairstyles did not influence the evaluation of [woman’s] physical beauty. Furthermore, these two hairstyles caused a much larger change in the dimension of health than in the rest of the dimensions. Finally, male raters considered the longer-haired female subjects’ health status better, especially if the subjects were less attractive women,” the researchers explain.
The results showed that the women rated as more attractive also received more favourable judgements on their youth, femininity health, and sexiness. It was also found that only the long and medium hair had a significant impact on the attractiveness ratings.
The most important piece of the results is why long hair is considered to be more attractive. Is it because men perceive long hair as related to a healthy mate? Does long hair signal good genes? Or, perhaps the long hair is actually a means that women use to cover or hide certain unattractive facial features.
As mentioned above, the data supported the hypothesis that men perceive long hair to signal good genes, and therefore consider it to be more attractive than the other styles tested. Another very interesting finding is that when basic photos were rated as unattractive, adjusting the hairstyle made the photos more attractive in the eyes of the men; the exact same face was present but just the hair had been changed.
It just goes to show that not only do our genes influence who we are and how we behave, but our genes are also reflected by us in our appearances, even indirectly such as through hair. In general practise, anybody can change their hairstyle at any time, but it is clear which style men respond to more, and why.
Ladies, next time you’re at the hair salon and are thinking of going short, take some more time to mull it over; do you really want to make that cut and lose your evolutionary advantage of projecting healthy genotypes/phenotypes? It seems much more advantageous, at least occurring to this research, to grow your hair out long.
Mesko, N., & Bereczkei, T. 2004. Hairstyle as an adaptive means of displaying phenotypic quality. Human Nature, 15(3), 251-270. doi:10.1007/s12110-004-1008-6