Women find small facial scars attractive when looking for a short-term relationship, research finds.
Previously it was thought scars made men look less attractive in this context.
However, it seems women may link scars to bravery and health.
For long-term relationships, male scarring made no difference to women’s perceptions of attractiveness.
When men looked at pictures of women with small scars and without, it made no difference, whatever type of relationship they were considering.
Dr Rob Burriss, the study’s first author, said:
“Male and female participants were shown images of faces that displayed scarring from injury or illness, and were asked to rate how attractive they found the person for long-term and short-term relationships.
Women may have rated scarring as an attractive quality for short-term relationships because they found it be a symbol of masculinity, a feature that is linked to high testosterone levels and an indicator of good genetic qualities that can be passed on to offspring.
Men without scars, however, could be seen as more caring and therefore more suitable for long-term relationships.
The results come from a study of 223 people who were asked to look at pictures of opposite-sex faces.
Some people had small facial scars, while others did not.
The facial scars made men 6% more attractive, on average.
Dr Burriss said:
“The results demonstrate that we may have more in common with non-Western cultures than previously thought.
The perception that scarring is a sign of strength is a view shared by the Yanomamö tribe of Venezuela for example, who use face-paint to accentuate scars that result from ritualised club fights designed to test a man’s endurance against repeated strikes to the head.
The assumption that scarring is a sign of bravery is also consistent with the historical tradition of academic fencing in Western culture, whereby scarring on a man was often evidence of his courage and ability to withstand an opponent’s blow.”
→ Explore PsyBlog’s ebooks, all written by Dr Jeremy Dean:
The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (Burriss et al., 2009).