By Mark Esposito, Weekend Contributor
Want that Sir Walter Raleigh look to entice the opposite (or even the same) sex and alleviate your morning shaving bump ritual? Well, you can avoid the shaving but your attractiveness to the object of your affections might depend more on the frequency of your biological competitor’s facial hair than your own or so says a new study out of Australia. Evolutionary biologist Zinnia Janif wanted to know if sexual attractiveness was enhanced by facial hair and if so to what degree. Her researchers at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, showed photographs of 36 men who volunteered to grow facial hair for a month to 1453 women and 223 men. The photographs were filmed at identical angles and with exactly similar lighting conditions and depicted the subjects at four stages of growth: clean-shaven, light stubble (5 days), heavy stubble (10 days), and full hipster beard (4 weeks). The female viewers were either heterosexual or bisexual and the male viewers were all heterosexual.
Janif’s premise was that evolutionary biological traits might depend on the frequency of the trait among a given population to decide its advantage or disadvantage. Biologists have long known that some traits don’t depend on the frequency of their occurrence to provide an evolutionary advantage. Things like stronger wings or longer leg bones always provide an advantage for predators in chasing down prey but studies of color variations in guppies suggested that oddball colors were only an advantage to this aquatic prey if the frequency was small. Predators, it seems, get better at deciding what to eat if the differently colored guppies aren’t too numerous. So the advantage of the rare coloration begins to disappear as the trait becomes more common. (more…)