Taking a date to a gig, concert or getting out your own guitar could be a great way for men to impress their potential partners. A study has found that men's faces seem better looking after women have been listening to music.
Previous research has hinted that the sense of arousal from music can be 'transferred' to people's faces. So, the theory goes that if you play someone some music and then quickly show them a face, the spillover arousal will make them think it's more attractive than if they hadn't heard the music first. Researchers put this hypothesis to the test, in a study in the journal PLOS ONE.
"There is some evidence in the psychological literature that so-called arousal transfer effects can occur if two stimuli are processed consecutively," said study author Manuela Marin of the University of Vienna.
"The processing of the first stimulus produces internal arousal, i.e. 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."
A total of 64 women were involved in the study. The women listened to a 25-second clip of music, of varying levels of pleasantness and arousal, before seeing a picture of a male face. They rated how attractive they thought the face was. The team compared this to controls where women were in silence for 25 seconds before seeing the face.
They found that the most arousing and complex music gave the men's faces the biggest boost in attractiveness.
"Facial attractiveness is one of the most important physical characteristics that can influence the choice of a partner. We wanted to find out how music can alter the perception of this feature," said Helmut Leder, also a study author from the University of Vienna.
It's thought that the use of music in courtship rituals could be down to its effects inducing arousal in women. This would support the overall role for music in the courtship process, which is common throughout history and cultures.