Listening to music can cause women to perceive a man’s face as more attractive, and make her more willing to date him, a study claims. Researchers from the University of Vienna in Austria investigated the impact of musical exposure on the how one evaluates the faces of people of opposite sex.
“Facial attractiveness is one of the most important physical characteristics that can influence the choice of a partner,” said Helmut Leder, from the University of Vienna. “We wanted to find out how music can alter the perception of this feature,” said Leder.
Music has experienced mostly in a social context, especially before the advent of modern technology. Hence, it is plausible to assume that music could positively influence the visual perception of faces, researchers said. “There is some evidence in the psychological literature that so-called arousal transfer effects can occur if two stimuli are processed consecutively,” Leder said.
The processing of the first stimulus produces internal arousal, ie increased physiological activity, which is then attributed to the second stimulus. “This mostly unconscious mechanism can then influence our actions, in this case, the choice of a partner,” said Manuela Marin, from the University of Vienna.
In their experiment, scientists presented heterosexual participants with instrumental musical excerpts that varied in their emotional content, followed by a photograph of a face from the opposite sex with a neutral facial expression.
The face assessed in terms of its attractiveness on a scale. In addition, participants asked to rate whether
they would date the person pictured. In the control condition only faces without music presented.
There were three groups of participants: women in the fertile phase of their cycle, women in the nonfertile phase of their cycle, and men. These groups were similar in their musical preferences and musical training, as well as in their mood before the experiment and in their relationship status.
The results showed that female participants rated the male faces as more attractive and were more willing to date the men pictured when previously exposed to music. Overall, highly stimulating and complex music led to the greatest effect compared to the control condition. This effect was not present among male participants.
Music role in partner selection
These results are promising and open up new possibilities to investigate the role of music in partner selection in connection with aspects of physical attractiveness. “Our goal is to replicate these results in a larger sample and to modify some aspects of the experiment. For example, we would like to clarify whether musical abilities and creativity can compensate partially for deficiencies in terms of physical appearance and fitness,” said Bruno Gingras from the University of Innsbruck in Austria.
“There is an increasing number of empirical findings showing that music has the power to influence human behavior with regard to partner selection,” said Marin. “Music can promote social cohesion, and it also plays a role in the mother-child relationship. Until we understand these connections, there will be a long way to go,” she said.