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Manuela M Marin is a researcher and lecturer on the psychology of the arts. She has a multidisciplinary academic background and conducts empirical studies on the perception and cognition of music, the visual arts and beyond. You can find her on LinkedIn here.
A 2022 experimental study in Austria was conducted to learn if men and women were more or less attractive when presented as musicians.
There were two conditions in the experiment – the musical priming (experimental) and the silent (control) condition.
In the silent condition, participants were asked to rate facial attractiveness and dating desirability of 37 faces of average attractiveness presented in a random order.
Twenty of these faces were the opposite sex “targets,” faces the ratings of which the researchers were really interested in. The remaining 17 faces were same-sex faces used as distractors and not included in the analyses.
In the musical priming condition, participants listened to different musical excerpts of various characteristics, each lasting for 25 seconds and randomly paired with the same 20 opposite sex faces used in the control condition. Each of these faces was displayed 4 times paired with musical excerpts to the participants. Target faces were intermingled with 17 same-sex distractors (that were not analysed).
Participants were told that the musical excerpt they listened to was played by the person whose face they were asked to rate.
The experiment was run separately for males and females – males were shown “target” faces of females and females were shown male faces as “targets.”
Results showed that females rated target faces as substantially more attractive after listening to music supposedly played by those persons. Attractiveness ratings were higher regardless of the arousal or pleasantness qualities of the music associated with the face (which the target was allegedly playing).
The difference in dating desirability was even more pronounced – after being told that faces displayed to them belonged to persons playing the music, they rated them as much more desirable for dating than in the control condition.
Males rated target faces in the musical condition as more desirable for dating, but attributing the playing of music to the target faces did not affect their attractiveness ratings.
Additionally, females reported to a larger degree than males “that they would be willing to have a one-night stand with the most attractive person shown in the experiment.” There was no difference between male and female participants in their willingness to enter a long-term relationship with the most attractive person shown in the experiment.
Manuela's study found that musicality (studied here) and having listened to music (studied in Marin et al., 2017) can influence the perception of attractiveness of opposite-sex faces and dating desirability mostly among females.
Males appear to be less influenced by music when rating female faces.”
Here is the full report:
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