Advice for guys who are struggling to deal with their receding hairlines: You might just want to shave it all off. A recent study involving three separate experiments has shown that men who shear the hair off their heads are perceived as being more dominant, taller, and even stronger. But the increased perception of masculinity comes at a price: namely, diminished attractiveness.
The research was conducted by Albert Mannes at the University of Pennsylvania who, it should be noted, is a balding man himself. He wanted to know if men who voluntarily shave their heads (as opposed to guys who are just flat out bald) are seen as having a different social standing than men with hair (including men with receding hairlines). To that end, he set up three different experiments to find out if this behavior was a kind of nonverbal cue.
In the first experiment, some 60 volunteers analyzed a series of photos of men roughly the same age and wearing similar clothing. The difference, however, was that some men had completely shaved heads, while others had a full mop of hair. The participants were asked to rate each person in terms of their perceived power, influence, and authority. Once the results were in, the men with shaved heads ended up at the top of the list.
For the second study, Mannes had his participants look at images of four men. Each man was shown twice, once with hair and once with it digitally removed. This time, the participants assessed the shaven ones as being more dominant — but also an inch taller and 13% stronger (who knew?).
And in the final study, the volunteers were given verbal and written descriptions of the men (i.e. "nonphotographic stimuli"). The accounts described the men's physical attributes, including whether or not they had thick hair or shaved heads. At this point you won't be surprised to hear that the men who were described as having shaved heads were rated the highest for masculinity, strength, dominance, and leadership potential.
So, what does Mannes think about all of this?
His theory is that men who take the initiative to voluntarily shave their heads give off the impression of boldness and dominance. And in fact, his studies also showed that men with thinning hairlines were rated as being less masculine than those who simply cut if off. Consequently, he believes that men who are experiencing natural hair loss may improve their interpersonal standing by shaving.
But before you reach for that razor, it's important to note that the study also showed that men with shaved heads are also considered less attractive and older-looking. Given that masculinity is often correlated with attractiveness, the whole thing might just cancel itself out.
Be sure to read the entire study at Social Psychological and Personality Science.