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5 Ridiculous Things Science Claimed About Bearded Men In 2015

Beards were a hot "science" topic in 2015, but calling these stories scientific is stretch.

Posted on December 2, 2015, at 9:47 a.m. ET

2015 was a big year for beard "science."

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Here's the scientific skinny on five hairy stories that you may have run into this year:

1. Bearded men have poop all over their faces.

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The claim: Beards are "about as dirty as a toilet" when it comes to fecal matter.

Just the facts: In a nonscientific sample of a few of dudes' beards, some beards (but not all) had the same bacteria you might find in poop (and many, many other places). The presence of feces itself was never tested.

How legit is this science? Not legit. This is not an actual scientific study. Instead, a local ABC affiliate had a lab technician swab "a handful" of volunteers' beards for bacterial cultures. That technician found that some samples contained bacteria that would also be found poop. The scientist identified the bacteria as "enterics" — an extremely broad group of bacteria found all over the place, not only in feces. If they had swabbed clean-shaven faces or female faces (which they did not), they probably would have found some there as well.

2. Bearded men are sexist and hostile.

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The claim: Dudes with beards are hostile and sexist toward women.

Just the facts: 223 American men and 309 Indian men completed an online survey that measured demographic variables, ambivalent sexism, and facial hair status. The authors stated that after "controlling for nationality, age, education level, relationship status, and sexual orientation," men with facial hair were more likely to agree with hostile sexist comments.

How legit is the science? Misleading at best. This study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. The researchers asked around 500 men to respond to "'nonsexist,' 'ambivalent,' 'benevolent,' or 'hostile' sexism" statements. Columbia University stats guru Andrew Gelman, however, does not recommend such a study be taken seriously. Noting that the researchers' initial analysis method yielded no significant results, he told BuzzFeed Science that "their headline finding appeared only because, after their first analysis failed, they shook and shook the data until they found something statistically significant."

3. Bearded men are dangerous, cheating, thieving liars.

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The claim: The longer a man's facial hair, the more likely he is to fight, cheat, and steal.

Just the facts: In a nonscientific sample, 45% of men with beards admitted to fighting versus 29% of clean shaven men. Forty percent of bearded men also admitted to having stolen, compared to 17% of clean-shaven men. Further, 65% of women surveyed said they preferred clean-shaven men, and half of them said they wouldn't consider getting involved romantically with a bearded man.

How legit is the science? It's not. This was a simple a poll commissioned by a video social network called Eva (in what seems to be a social marketing campaign). The methodology has not been published, but it is unlikely to be in any way scientific as the company that ran the polls states that anybody can opt to take the poll.

4. Men with stronger beards are more attractive to women than men with patchier beards.

Jemal Countess / Frazer Harrison / Getty Images / Alex Kasprak / BuzzFeed

The claim: The fuller the beard, the better you look.

Just the facts: 3,805 women surveyed online showed a significant preference for photos of men with nonpatchy beards and less body hair. The exception to the body hair trend was hair around the areolae, pectoral region, or sternum.

How legit is the science? Probably BS! This study was also published in the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. Female participants were shown photographs of men with different distributions of facial and body hair. Ryan Gregory, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Guelph, Ontario, makes one obvious point here: Patchy beards could simply be aesthetically displeasing. He cautions against people making deep biological interpretations of things that could be cultural. "This sort of study makes significant (usually unexamined) assumptions about the circumstances of our evolutionary past [...] and ignores potential non-adaptive explanations," he told BuzzFeed Science. "Not everything in biology is a genetic adaptation."

5. Men with beards are perceived as more masculine.

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The claim: Both men and women view men with beards as more masculine.

Just the facts: 20 men and 20 women ranked the attractiveness and/or perceived dominance of six men at different stages of facial hair growth. The researchers found no evidence that any one stage of facial hair was more attractive than any other, but they did find that both men and women perceived men with stronger beards as more dominant and masculine. The study also addressed men's vocal pitch in a similar way.

How legit is the science? This study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Behavioral Ecology. Ryan Gregory, in this case, is not convinced the experimental set up can say anything meaningful about human evolution. "Aside from the obvious statistical issues of very small sample size, there is another major issue [...] These particular males must have differed a fair bit in voice and facial hair, or else they couldn’t have gotten any significant results at all," he said. "It would be vastly more difficult to use these as meaningful indicators of anything in a real population."

One beard topic science didn't touch in 2015? GLITTER BEARDS!

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