The project, which has been dubbed “Beauty and the Mask,” was conducted by Temple University's College of Public Health and the Center for Human Appearance at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. With the help of 500 participants, 60 faces were ranked on attractiveness.
This study utilized a “racially diverse set of male and female faces,” which were sourced from the Chicago Face Database. Participants were required to rank the faces without a mask and categorize them as “unattractive,” “average” or “attractive.”
However, when surgical masks were digitally added to the faces, researchers found that participants upped their attractiveness rankings “in statistically significant amounts for both women and men.”
The faces that were previously categorized as “unattractive” reportedly saw the most improvement in their average rating at 42 percent.
"Many people believe that the appearance of the eyes is one of the strongest influencers of judgments of attractiveness,” said David B. Sarwer, the associate dean for research and director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple's College of Public Health. “This study suggests that aspects of the lower face, which are covered by masks, also play an important role in perceptions of attractiveness."
The study also reiterated the long-held assertion that facial symmetry and harmony were key factors that play a role in attractiveness.
Faces that had “disharmonious” facial features such as the nose, jaw, neck or lips had attractiveness rankings that skewed on the lower end of the spectrum, but when those features were covered, the faces were viewed more favorably.