By ALEXANDRA SIFFERLIN September 28, 2012
Forget hair transplants, pills and hair regrowth serums. A University of Pennsylvania researcher has a better alternative for balding men: shave it all off.
In three experiments, researcher Albert Mannes, a lecturer at the Wharton School at U. Penn — and a balding man himself — found that guys with shaved heads are not only perceived by others as more manly and dominant than other men, but also taller, stronger and having greater potential as leaders.
In the first experiment, nearly 60 participants looked at a series of photos of men who were similar in age and attire. The difference was that some men had shaved heads while others had full manes. The participants rated each man in terms of how powerful, influential and authoritative they looked. When the results were averaged, shaved men topped the ratings.
In the second study, Mannes showed participants images of four men. Each man was shown twice, once with hair and once without. Not only were the men perceived as more dominant when they were shown digitally balded, but they were also viewed as nearly an inch taller and 13% stronger.
In the final study, Mannes gave the participants verbal and written descriptions men. Some men were described as having thick hair and others had shaved heads. Once again, the participants rated the men with shaved heads highest for masculinity, strength, dominance and leadership potential.
“I was surprised that perceptions of dominance and masculinity extended to concrete, physical characteristics such as height and strength,” says Mannes, whose study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Mannes theorizes that it’s the boldness of the act of head-shaving that feeds into the perception of dominance. He’s found that men with thinning hair — those who are presumably just resigning themselves to their own baldness — were rated as less dominant than men who took the initiative to shave their heads altogether.
Still, that doesn’t mean everyone should be reaching for the shaver. Mannes research also revealed that men with shaved heads were considered less attractive and older-looking than those with thick heads of hair — and attractiveness is also correlated with perception of dominance. “So, whatever a man gains in dominance directly by shaving his full head of hair will be offset to some degree by his diminished attractiveness,” says Mannes.
For men with thinning hair, however, the benefits offset the downside. “The shaved look is more attractive than the visibly balding look. So men suffering natural hair loss may enhance both their dominance and attractiveness by shaving,” says Mannes.
Mannes says his findings should help legions of balding guys feel better about themselves and stop feeling self-conscious about their shiny pates. Or, at the very least, they can save themselves the financial cost of trying to reverse their hair loss. “These men might better improve their well-being by finishing what Mother Nature has started,” he writes.