PARIS – Looking the odd one out may seem like a recipe for mating disaster, but it could make you more attractive to the opposite sex.
So says a study that may also explain why fashions change.
Researchers in Australia used beards to test a theory that some features become more desirable when fewer people have them.
They showed women sets of pictures of men: clean-shaven, with stubble, or bearded, and had them rate the men’s attractiveness.
Men with beards scored better when they were surrounded by clean-shaved faces, and vice versa, said the study.
“In some cases, rarity in ornamentation can be advantageous,” said the paper, which may explain a puzzle of evolutionary science.
Under the theory of sexual selection, female animals choose mates with desirable features, which are often “advertised” through adornments such as colorful tail feathers in peacocks.
Logically, these sought-after features should eventually dominate the gene pool and less desirable variations weeded out — but this is not the case.
Instead, genetic variations are perpetuated across generations specifically because they give a survival edge with combinations of “good genes,” compared to the mainstream.
The paper, led by researcher Barnaby Dixson of the University of New South Wales, was published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.