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Are Beards Honest Signals of Male Dominance and Testosterone?

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Abstract

The male beard is one of the most visually salient and sexually dimorphic traits and a hypothesized potential marker of other traits, such as dominance, masculinity, social status, and self-confidence. However, as men can easily alter their facial hair, beards may provide unreliable information about the beard owner’s characteristics. Here, we examined whether beards are honest signals of biological (testosterone levels) and psychological (self-reported dominance) traits. Young (M = 21.29, SD = 1.54) and healthy men (N = 97) participated in the study. Their beards were measured directly (using digital calipers) and by self-report. Participants provided saliva samples before and after acute exercise (to assess their testosterone and cortisol levels) and reported their dominance on a 5-item scale. The results showed that beard length (directly measured and self-reported) was not related to testosterone levels or dominance; thus, no evidence was found to support the hypothesis that beards are honest (or dishonest) signals of the beard owners’ testosterone levels and dominance.

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Acknowledgment

This study was funded by University of Wrocław. We thank Diane Williams, Ph.D., from Edanz Group (https://en-author-services.edanzgroup.com/ac), for editing a draft of this manuscript.

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Contributions

Marta Kowal, Piotr Sorokowski, Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz, and Judyta Nowak contributed to the study conception and design and material preparation. Marta Kowal, Sylwester Orzechowski, Grzegorz Żurek, Alina Żurek, and Magdalena Nawrat were responsible for data collection. Detailed hormonal methodology and analyses were performed by Agnieszka Żelaźniewicz and Judyta Nowak. Statistical analyses were performed by Marta Kowal. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Marta Kowal and Piotr Sorokowski, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Piotr Sorokowski.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All participants provided their informed, written consent to take part in the study, in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. The ethics committee of the Institute of Psychology (University of Wrocław) approved the study protocol.

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Kowal, M., Sorokowski, P., Żelaźniewicz, A. et al. Are Beards Honest Signals of Male Dominance and Testosterone?. Arch Sex Behav 50, 3703–3710 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-02012-w

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-021-02012-w

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