Posted: 2/08/24

TAMIU Faculty Member Publishes Research on Beards


Dr. Ray Garza
Dr. Ray Garza  

A recent study by a Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) faculty member focuses on the hairy truth behind beards.

Dr. Ray Garza, assistant professor of Psychology at TAMIU’s College of Arts and Sciences, co-authored research, “Perceptions of Beardedness for Attractiveness, Masculinity, Fighting Ability, and Partner Quality: A Cross-Cultural Examination Among Hispanic and Iranian Women” focused on how beards are perceived. 

Published in the academic journal Adaptive Human Physiology and Behavior in late 2023, the publication was co-authored alongside Reza Afhami, associate professor at Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran, Iran; José Mora, recent TAMIU graduate, and Farid Pazhoohi, director of the Evolutionary Social Cognition Lab and lecturer at the University of Plymouth. 

Dr. Garza’s interest in studying facial hair was motivated by wanting to understand the attributes women desire in their potential partners.

“I am interested in the underlying mechanisms of beard displays from a biological and evolutionary point of view rather than why men decide to grow out their beards. Some research has suggested that beards may display cues to underlying health. Whether this is the reason why they may be considered attractive or suitable as a long-term partner is one of my research focuses,” said Garza.   

The two-part study focused on which beard profile they found most attractive, masculine, capable in a fight, reliable as a partner, and suitable as a father. Participants were shown seven drawings of male faces, each with different beard lengths, from clean-shaven to very long. From there, women chose the face that best embodied each characteristic. The second study replicated the first but also asked study participants to rate each profile to indicate the degree to which each beard trait was present in everyone. 

Research findings indicated that Hispanic women “demonstrated a stronger preference for bearded men,” – but preferred beards found in men with either light or moderate beards. Faces with light beards were frequently chosen as most attractive, reliable as a partner, and suitable as a father. Moderate beards were perceived as the most masculine and likely to win a fight.

“Overall, women prioritize some type of beardedness…it is important to note that beard length preferences were mostly on the shorter length, as stubble and light beards were preferred and rated higher in both samples,” noted the study.  

Hispanic women in the study were found to prefer bearded profiles over the Iranian participant sample. 

“The strong interest Hispanic women had for men’s beards was interesting. We know that beards are often associated with masculine, dominant, and parental ability traits, but we did not expect them to be stronger for Hispanic women. Furthermore, these preferences were moderated by self-reported disgust. That is, Hispanic women with a higher propensity to be disgusted was associated with a lower preference for facial hair, while for Iranian women, higher levels of disgust were associated with a stronger beard preference,” Garza explained. 

He noted that these findings will add greater depth to the field of evolutionary psychology and a better understanding of Hispanic women’s perceptions of facial hair.  

“The findings add a cross-cultural element to the research on facial attractiveness and highlight Hispanic women’s preferences, which are underrepresented in the field overall. It also suggests that preferences for men’s beards may be a product of what women may desire in their partner, which are traits that highlight attractiveness in addition to traits that may signal parental ability. We currently have enough data to report on men’s preference, and that is another line of work that will address men’s competitiveness and their perception of other men’s facial hair,” Garza emphasized. 

For more information, contact Garza at ray.garza@tamiu.edu or call 956.326.2638. 

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