Embracing the smooth scalp: Study shows benefits of baldness

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan


Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

It gets tangled and messy when we don’t pay attention to it. We spend hundreds of dollars a year to keep it looking shiny and great. Essentially, it defines us as a person, the ultimate means of expression. Hair. It’s a security blanket, and most men and women are terrified of losing it.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Throughout the month, people will take part in the Virgin Radio and Quebec Breast Foundation’s Shave to Save fundraiser, trading in their luscious locks for a smooth, bare scalp. According to a recent study, being bald may actually turn out to work in their favour.

The study was led by Albert Mannes, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. In a series of three experiments involving pictures of bald men, participants rated the “shorn-scalped” individuals higher in the masculinity, strength, leadership, and dominance departments.

Albert Mannes told The Concordian his work was inspired by his own experience.

“I noticed that strangers were a bit more standoffish, and in some cases even deferential, after I started shaving my head,” he says.

Three experiments took place. The first involved participants viewing photos of men dressed similarly, the only difference being their hair or lack thereof.  Participants were asked to rate the men on how authoritative, powerful and influential their appearance made them seem.

The second experiment involved comparing two photos of the same man. While one photo included his full mane, the other had his hair digitally removed. Participants viewed the bald men as 13% stronger and an inch taller than their authentic counterpart.

Mannes was surprised by this perception of strength and height, and said he believes that these qualities are “positively correlated.” According to Mannes, a person’s perception of dominance, for example, may be accompanied by a perception of strength.

In the third study, participants did not have any visual cues. They were given a verbal and written description of the men. Those described as being bald were thought to be more manly and dominant than those described as having a thick head of hair.

Concordia child studies student, Savanah Pereira, believes that the results are proof that people have a natural need to “fit into roles” based on what society expects of them.

While the bare scalps may have won in the dominance department, the study also revealed that bald men were seen as older and more unattractive. However, balding men benefit the most, according to Mannes.

“Men with thick heads of hair should not shave it. Whatever they gain in dominance is lost in attractiveness,” he says. “But men losing their hair gain in both perceived dominance and attractiveness.”

According to Mannes, the media also plays a large role in the results.

“The shaved Hollywood action hero dates back at least to Yul Brynner, but has grown over time,” he saod. “Bruce Willis and Jason Statham are two notable examples. Even Mr. Clean.”

The question still remains, does a study like this encourage men to part with their hair? Pereira thinks older men may have less of a hard time doing so.

“For younger men, it may be harder to convince them,” she says.

If you’re feeling a new look and are willing to end your relationship with your locks for a good cause, visit www.montreal.virginradio.ca/ShavetoSave for more information on how to donate.


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