April 16, 2010

The Trustworthiness of Beards

By Tom Bartlett
April 14, 2010
The Chronicle of Higher Education

The way you gain people's trust is to earn it over time by repeatedly proving that you deserve it. That, or grow a beard.

A recent study in the Journal of Marketing Communications found that men with beards were deemed more credible than those who were clean-shaven. The study showed participants pictures of men endorsing certain products. In some photos, the men were clean-shaven. In others, the same men had beards. Participants thought the men with beards had greater expertise and were significantly more trustworthy when they were endorsing products like cell phones and toothpaste.

But, oddly, men with beards were slightly less effective than smooth-cheeked fellows in underwear advertisements. Apparently we don't want Zach Galifianakis selling us boxers.

The researchers say the implications of their findings could extend far beyond advertisements. For instance, male politicians might want to consider not shaving because the "presence of a beard on the face of candidates could boost their charisma, reliability, and above all their expertise as perceived by voters, with positive effects on voting intention."

Former presidential candidates Al Gore and Bill Richardson didn't put down the razor until they were already out of the running. Who knows how things might have turned out if they had had the power of facial hair working for them ...

Important note: The study looked only at neat, medium-length beards. You can't just go all ZZ Top and expect people to trust you.

(The study, which was conducted by Gianluigi Guido, Alessandro M. Pelusoa, and Valentina Moffa, is not online. Photo above is of the singer-songwriter/beard-haver Samuel Beam.)