Scholarly Study Finds Cosmetics Can Alter Initial Perceptions

Researchers at Harvard, Boston University, and Massachusetts General Hospital conducted an experiment where participants were shown images of women’s faces with various levels of cosmetic makeup. In one experiment the images were flashed on the screen for a quarter second. In a second experiment, subjects were able to able to inspect the images of women’s faces for as long as they wished.

The results showed that faces with cosmetics were more likely to be rated highly by subjects for attractiveness, competence, likeability, and trustworthiness. Subjects shown images for longer periods still rated images of women with cosmetics as more attractive and competent. But images of women with lower amounts or no makeup were rated higher on likeability and trust.

The authors conclude, “cosmetics can create supernormal facial stimuli, and that one way they may do so is by exaggerating cues to sexual dimorphism. Our results provide evidence that judgments of facial trustworthiness and attractiveness are at least partially separable, that beauty has a significant positive effect on judgment of competence, a universal dimension of social cognition, but has a more nuanced effect on the other universal dimension of social warmth.”

The article, published online at PLoS One, can be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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