Thursday, April 15, 2010

Trust Me, I Have a Beard

This article indicates that bearded men have more credibility as endorsers than those sans beard.  The study does not differentiate between think and thin beards or gray or not gray.
The capacity of a beard to communicate positive personality qualities (such as experience, dominance, virility, strength and maturity) and to compromise, at the same time, the perceived attractiveness of its owners has also been demonstrated in more recent research (Addison 1989; Conti and Conti 2004; Shannon and Stark 2003), though some of the meanings traditionally ascribed to the possession of a beard may have been modified over time (Corson 1980).
Hmmm.  Maturity.  Those who know me are cackling now.  But perhaps the beard serves to exaggerate these qualities.
it seems that beardedness increases the perceived levels of expertise and trustworthiness, while reducing the perceived level of attractiveness in those who possess this physical feature
This is not a tradeoff that I like.  Being a trusted expert is only worth so much.  It has been shown that individuals with a
beard are on average perceived to be older than people of the same age without and, through
a halo effect (see De Souza, Baia˜o, and Otta 2003), also more competent and trustworthy

We have tested the first part of this at the "Guess your age" booths at carnivals and amusement parks and found a beard profitable--if stuffed animal accumulation = profit. 

So, the scholars find that beards make a difference for those products where the endorser's expertise or trusthworthiness is seen as relevant, but do not make much of a difference if the attractiveness of the endorser is key.

For politicians, the question then is: do they want to be attractive or seen as trustworthy?  If the former, then the current trend of mostly politicians without any facial hair in the US (Jack Layton in Canada is a "maverick" since he has a mustache).  But if politicians want to be seen as trustworthy, then they sprout a beard.  Obama, who, as my wife has repeated noticed, is ripped, could take a small hit on the attractiveness side by growing a beard and then appear more trustworthy.  Of course, he would have to groom it so that it would not appear too much like the beards of Osama and his ilk.

It could just be that beards are the marginal but undervalued edge in politics that on base percentage was in baseball in the 1990's.

Of course, my dirty secret is that I am bearded because I hate to shave.  There is no more strategery to it.

HT to Lukas Neville's tweet.

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