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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02644

The Effect of Wearing the Hijab on Perception of Female Facial Attractiveness by Muslim Men in their Native Muslim Country

  • 1Department of Psychology, Middle East Technical University Northern Cyprus Campus, Cyprus
  • 2Department of Psychology, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates

The hijab is central to the lives of millions of Muslims around the world and wearing this garment is used widely by Muslim women to reduce their physical attractiveness to men. But despite the extensive literature that exists on the social, political, and cultural aspects of Islamic veiling, little is known about how wearing the hijab actually affects the attractiveness of women to Muslim men in a Muslim country. To investigate this issue, the study reported here focussed on 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 shown frontal-head images of Muslim women in three different conditions: fully covered (heads fully covered by the hijab except for the face). partially covered (heads fully covered by the hijab except for the face and areas around the forehead and on each side of the face and head), and uncovered (heads with no covering). The findings showed 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. We argue that this pattern of effects is not consistent with influences based on anti-Islamic feeling or cultural endogamy, and 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 contribute normally to perception of human facial attractiveness. Thus, while wearing the hijab may be motivated by a cultural desire to suppress female attractiveness towards males, these findings suggest that not all hijab wearing serves this purpose, and female facial attractiveness, even for practising Muslim males living in their native Muslim country, is not reduced simply by wearing this garment. Indeed, from the findings we report, slight changes to the positioning of the hijab produce perceptions of facial attractiveness that are no lower than when no hijab is worn, and this may have substantial consequences for the cultural requirements of using the hijab in Muslim society to reduce the attractiveness of females.

Keywords: hijab (the veil), facial attractiveness, Islamophobia, Perception, veiling and material head coverings

Received: 19 Jul 2018; Accepted: 10 Dec 2018.

Edited by:

Markus Kemmelmeier, University of Nevada, Reno, United States

Reviewed by:

Farid Pazhoohi, University of Minho, Portugal
Nausheen Pasha, Houston Community College System, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Jordan, Aman Key Yekani and Sheen. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Timothy R. Jordan, Middle East Technical University Northern Cyprus Campus, Department of Psychology, Kalkanli, 99738, Cyprus, prof.timjordan@gmail.com