“Psychologist finds humans fickle and shallow” is probably not a click-baity enough title

A lot of my balding friends are sharing this story (in jest, I hope) that claims Bald men are sexier, more masculine, scientific study finds

A recent scientific study found that men with bald heads are perceived to be more masculine, dominant and stronger. So if you are bald don’t worry, embrace it by shaving your hair off and whatever you do, according to the study, do not wear a toupee, comb over or try hiding your baldness.

Females will in general perceive men with a shaved head as more confident.

This is obviously a worthless study, for several reasons I will expand upon.


The most important reason is that I, of course, have a full head of gloriously exuberant hair. Look at that photo of me from sometime in the 1980s, but please, control yourself. The sweater vest and the big glasses help, of course, but it’s the long wavy hair that seals the deal. Imagine me with my head shaved, and all you’d see is dork.


The second reason is the obvious misspelling. It should be “FEEEEMALES”. Note also that the bald fellows to the left are kind of the opposite of sexy.

The third reason is the dead giveaway of “A recent scientific study found”, followed by a complete absence of references. What study? How can I evaluate if it’s really scientific? How do I find out if the reporter actually interpreted it correctly?

The fourth reason is…I think I found the paper they’re talking about, Shorn Scalps and Perceptions of Male Dominance, by AE Mannes. It’s one of those contrived psychology studies, in which college students are shown photographs of bald and hairy men (in part of the work, they used digitally altered photos of the same men) and asked to subjectively report their impressions.

Dr Mannes, by the way, is bald, but I’m sure that did not influence the students at all.

It also has some odd results, with a battery of parameters showing variable effects.


Look at all those widely overlapping means and standard deviations — I suspect this is an observation that is extremely sensitive to subtle variations in conditions. There are some strange things there, too: they had the subjects estimate height and strength from a head shot, and tended to rate bald men as taller and stronger, despite lacking any objective information about either; for that matter, the parameter mentioned in the title, dominance, had a significant difference favoring bald men, as well, but they also had no information about their behavior or attitude. So, really, the lesson here is that people are able to invent arbitrary perceptions of individuals based on irrelevant information.

I don’t trust any of it, except for the one finding, that people find bald men less attractive than men with full heads of hair (look at the fifth line down). That’s obviously true, just look at my photo above. But for some reason, the author didn’t make the title “FEEEMALES Find Bald Men Ugly”.


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Male Pattern Baldness;
    I smell conclusion from a common occurrence among people of the male variety.
    Being male must cause baldness, where more testosterone means more hair loss, so testosterone is hormone that interferes with scalp follicles, therefore bald is more male.
    uhhhh to then conclude shaving head leads to more testosterone is confusing cause and effect. Sounds like justification for skinhead that has many other connotations ….
    funny how that “hormone effect” only occurs in the scalp while letting my beard grow unhindered. Curioser and curiuser.
    much prefer the “grass don’t grow on a busy street! *nudge* *wink* “

  2. parrothead says

    Clearly it’s worthless because I still have all (most. Mostly most.) my hair. If I were bald the study would be amazingly valid.

  3. says

    This seems like the kind of study that would get pretty variable results depending on what sort of bald people you used for the pictures. Someone who looks like Jason Statham or Tito Ortiz is more likely to be perceived as masculine than someone who looks like Jason Alexander.

  4. lotharloo says

    I don’t think the problem is with the study. After all, if there is any real phenomenon here, it can be found using a number of studies that some of them could look like this one. The problem is that the media is very bad in reading scientific studies. But I guess “recent study finds possible links between ‘baldness’ and ‘dominance’ but the effects are not strong enough and the results have not be widely replicated to draw any significant conclusions yet” is not a very tantalizing title.

  5. robro says

    The list starts with Dominance. Could that signify…

    I see that shaved heads are perceived as older. So, they have proven that older and uglier go together…in case you didn’t know.

  6. Holms says

    A much more concise rebuttal:

    The title of the article states “Bald men are sexier, more masculine, scientific study finds.” The text itself however belies this in the first line: “A recent scientific study found that men with bald heads are perceived to be more masculine, dominant and stronger.” This is a study of gender perception. The author rolled a 1 on his/her reading comprehension.

  7. says

    *Beware: Anectdata ahead*

    Having cycled through Very Long -> Bald -> Short -> Medium several times now (while not changing clothing styles) I would have to say that my opinions among other men tended to be given more weight when bald versus the other hair lengths. Interestingly (to me, anyway, YMMV) Long hair seems to be the worst for my being “taken seriously”. The implications of my experience seems rather, erm…interesting. :)

  8. multitool says

    Watch a few hours of commercial TV and count how many times you see ‘loser’ characters played by bald men, and how many times you see ‘sexy hero’ characters played by furry-headed men.

    (Of course this is just a tiny free taste of the big dogshit ice cream cone that women get on TV.)

  9. jaxkayaker says

    I seriously doubt that a t-test is appropriate for the experimental design, making the p-values reported even less useful than usual.

  10. frog says

    Bruce Willis, Michael Jordan, and Patrick Stewart are just gonna go count their money and awards magazine spreads over there in that corner and be completely unconcerned with whether anyone thinks they’re attractive because they’re bald, or in spite of their baldness.

  11. cartomancer says

    I shaved all my head hair off once, for a laugh. It just made me look ill. Like, dangerously ill. Gollum on chemotherapy ill. It was not a flattering look.

  12. mudskipper says

    I don’t know what ads others are seeing, but for me this post has a big ad for a cure for balding above it. Unfortunately for the company that paid for the ad, those balding readers who are likely to be skeptical of the study are likely to be also skeptical of hair loss remedies.

  13. says

    I would have to say that my opinions among other men tended to be given more weight when bald versus the other hair lengths. Interestingly (to me, anyway, YMMV) Long hair seems to be the worst for my being “taken seriously”.

    It could be that bald is perceived as more masculine simply because it signals “not a woman”.

  14. Crimson Clupeidae says

    This is a rehash of a bad ‘science’ article from way back in the 90s (at least). The reason I remember is because it was done as a Dilbert strip (I’m not going to search for it) and we all know how diligent Scott Adams is when it comes to science!

  15. octopod says

    Taking the results at face value, doesn’t this mean that men perceived as “old”, “dominant” and “masculine” are seen as LESS sexy (“attractive”)? I mean, that actually seems legit but I know that’s my own hindbrain talking…

  16. wzrd1 says

    Not all that long ago, I learned that I had a bald patch. Frankly, bit shit.
    Still, it frightened our children of 30+ years.
    Dad is mortal!
    Frigging seriously?!
    But, it’s it what it is.

    Honestly, if I were to entirely bald tomorrow, bit shit!
    At least I’d not have to comb my mop before going to work.

  17. xxxxxx says

    I sure hope this study makes the rounds among the self-proclaimed “alpha male” assholes (aka Theodore Beale) who like to think being conceited and belligerent is such a winning combination for success. Perhaps, too, if we can persuade them to tattoo a large florescent pink penis on their newly shaved scalps …just so the rest of us can save a little time in singling them out for avoidance.

  18. johnrockoford says

    Hardly a scientific observation, but it seems to me that it’s how one treats baldness that will make a difference. If you try to hide it by comb-overs, etc. you just look like an insecure faker. Shave your head and you’re being honest about your situation.

  19. blf says

    Shave your head and you’re being honest about your situation.

    Eh? That is (1) Also hiding the bald spot; and (2) Can be done without any bald spot. I suggest being “honest” about a bald spot is to do nothing: The individual has one. So fecking what?