Do Men Grow Beards To Show Dominance? Here’s What The Science Says

Scientists have long known that beards can make a man seem more dominant and masculine.

Now provocative new research involving primates shows that male facial hair is more elaborate in social groups involving intense competition for rank, dominance and attractiveness (see video above).

Is the same phenomenon seen in humans, and might that explain the rise of the hipster beard? Maybe so.

“In general, our new research shows that body ornaments appear to be more elaborate in larger groups of primates (where signaling quality and status to strangers is of great importance) and the same may apply to humans which live in fairly large societies,” Dr. Cyril Grueter, an associate professor of biological anthropology at the University of Western Australia in Perth and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email.

For the study, the researchers analyzed facial hair and other body ornaments of 154 primates species–from the long capes of white and silvery hair in hamadryas baboons to the elongated noses of proboscis monkeys.

Bet on the beard. The researchers found that the males of species in complex social groups flaunted more conspicuous ornaments than the males of species in small groups. The finding suggests that flamboyant ornaments are of greater benefit to males in complex groups, which involve greater competition.

“When you live in a small group where everyone knows everyone because of repeated interactions, there is no need to signal quality and competitiveness via ornaments,” Grueter said in a written statement. “In large groups where individuals are surrounded by strangers, we need a quick reliable tool to evaluate someone’s strength and quality, and that’s where these elaborate ornaments come in. In the case of humans, this may also include phenotypic extensions such as body decoration, jewelry —> Read More

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How you feel pain is affected by where sources of pain are in relation to each other, and so crossing your fingers can change what you feel on a single finger, finds new research. “Many people suffer from chronic pain, and the level of pain experienced can be higher than would be expected from actual tissue damage. Our research is basic laboratory science, but it raises the interesting possibility that pain levels could be manipulated by applying additional stimuli, and by moving one part of the body relative to others,” the senior author explained. —> Read More

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Female characters portrayed in two popular TV shows not only are competing for powerful ratings (and advertising dollars) among the networks, but also are exemplifying how women are gaining equality in superhero fiction. Rebecca Borah, a University of Cincinnati associate professor of English and comparative literature, will present examples from two popular TV programs, at the 46th annual conference of the College English Association, which takes place March 26-28, in Indianapolis. —> Read More

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