LEWISBURG — Dr. T. Joel Wade, a Bucknell University professor of psychology, recently contributed to a study of how bald men are seen by others.
Wade and co-authors found that white men are seen as less attractive if bald. However, the attractiveness of Black men was unchanged whether male pattern baldness had taken a toll or not.
Wade explained 120 college students were surveyed in two groups. The first was split between 37 men and 33 women, ages 18 to 22. The second included 50 women, ages 19 to 22.
Research participants were first shown images of a Black or a white man with a full head of hair then others with hair loss.
“Basically the bald images were of individuals who had male pattern baldness” Wade said. “Then we asked them a series of questions about attractiveness and personality characteristics.”
Wade said the research dovetailed with a long-standing research of attraction, perceptions of beauty, flirtation and the like.
“One of the things that was evident to me was that the literature on baldness in psychology was very sparse,” Wade said. “That spurred me to do the study. Also, there was no research I was aware of comparing Black and white men.”
“Cures” and other options for male pattern baldness have been circulated for centuries. How men accept baldness may vary from combing over remaining hair or gluing on a toupee to simply shaving what is left off.
“It is hard to give any blanket recommendations,” Wade said. “I think hair loss is one of those things for most men where whatever is going to make them feel better about themselves is probably the best idea.
“Some will be fine with the hair loss,” he added. “Others may feel they need to get hair plugs or a toupee.”
Wade speculated that younger generations may attach less of a stigma to baldness than older demographic cohorts.
“You didn’t see too many of the stars of older generations who were bald unless they were playing an older bald character,” Wade said. “Whereas, I think among young men and pop stars today you see quite a few young men with shaved heads.”
Wade added that among the current generation of young men, the foreboding look of a shaved head may be desirable as it connotes dominance. Whether it is attractive or not would be a secondary consideration.
Wade cautioned that the results were based on initial perceptions of photos, rather than interactions which could reveal other characteristics deemed desirable.
The study, compiled with co-authors Rebecca Burch of SUNY-Oswego and Maryanne Fisher of St. Mary’s University (Nova Scotia) was published in the Journal of Evolutionary Psychological Science.