The hijab is central to the lives of Muslim women across the world but little is known about the actual effects exerted by this garment on perceptions of the wearer. Indeed, while previous research has suggested that wearing the hijab may affect the physical attractiveness of women, the actual effect of wearing the hijab on perceptions of female facial attractiveness by Muslim men in a Muslim country is largely unknown. Accordingly, this study investigated the effects of the hijab on female facial attractiveness perceived by practising Muslim men living in their native Muslim country (the United Arab Emirates). Participants were presented with frontal-head images of women shown in three conditions: in the fully covered condition, heads were completely covered by the hijab except for the face; in the partially covered condition, heads were completely covered by the hijab except for the face and areas around the forehead and each side of the face and head; in the uncovered condition, heads had no covering at all. The findings revealed that faces where heads were uncovered or partially covered were rated as equally attractive, and both were rated as substantially more attractive than faces where heads were fully covered. Thus, while wearing the hijab can suppress female facial attractiveness to men, these findings suggest that not all hijab wearing has this effect, and female facial attractiveness for practising Muslim men living in their native Muslim country may not be reduced simply by wearing this garment. Indeed, from the findings we report, slight changes to the positioning of the hijab (the partially covered condition) produce perceptions of facial attractiveness that are no lower than when no hijab is worn, and this may have important implications for wearing the hijab in Muslim societies. Finally, we argue that the pattern of effects we observed is not explained by anti-Islamic feeling or cultural endogamy, and that a major contributory factor is that being fully covered by the hijab occludes external features, especially the hair and lateral parts of the head and face, which, when normally visible, provide a substantial perceptual contribution to human facial attractiveness.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)