John M. Becker

Have We Reached 'Peak Beard'?

Filed By John M. Becker | April 17, 2014 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: beards, bears, facial hair, peak beard, scientific study

crazy-beard.jpgA new study conducted by Australia's University of New South Wales and published in the journal Biology Letters suggests that society has become saturated enough with beards that we've reached "peak beard" -- the tipping point where beards are no longer unusual enough for people to find them attractive -- and that the pendulum will begin to swing in the other direction.

The reason for this, the study says, is "negative frequency-dependent selection," a evolutionary phenomenon that's hard-wired in our genes, where looking different makes a person stand out to potential mates and therefore helps their sexual prospects. PolicyMic reports:

The researchers showed over 1,500 people photographs of 36 men with varying degrees of facial hair (full beard, stubble, clean-shaven) and the participants ranked the bearded men according to attractiveness. The research found that people who saw more beards were less attracted to them...

The study confirms the principle of "negative frequency-dependent selection" (NFD), which is that people are often attracted to what's unusual. Beards were (for a moment) unusual. Now they're not, and therefore they are less appealing.

But never fear, scruff lovers: beard popularity usually waxes in 30-year cycles, so beards will be coming back -- that is, if popularity even factors in to your facial hair choices at all.

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