Is Beauty a Joy Forever? Young Women's Emotional Responses to Varying Types of Beautiful Advertising Models

By Goodman, J. Robyn; Morris, Jon D. et al. | Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Is Beauty a Joy Forever? Young Women's Emotional Responses to Varying Types of Beautiful Advertising Models


Goodman, J. Robyn, Morris, Jon D., Sutherland, John C., Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly


Numerous studies have explored the relationship between female beauty and positive effects for the woman, product, or ad; however, none has explored women's emotional responses to different beauty types. This study investigated college women's emotional responses to Solomon, Ashmore, and Longo's six beauty types. The survey results revealed that the original six beauty types were not supported. Instead, they combined into two independent dimensions: Sexual/Sensual (SS) and Classic Beauty/Cute/Girl-Next-Door (CCG). After testing emotional reactions to High CCG/Low SS, High SS/Low CCG, and Equal CCG/SS models, models with higher degrees of CCG produced significantly greater pleasure, arousal, and dominance.

Advertisers use beautiful women to attract attention to products because they believe the beautiful are credible, desirable, and aspirational.1 Numerous studies have shown that beautiful people receive more positive responses.2 They are seen more positively upon initial introduction,3 have greater social influence,4 are better liked,5 and are attributed with more positive characteristics such as kindness, strength, friendliness, and independence.6 Moreover, abundant evidence suggests beautiful people in ads produce positive effects for the ad and product.7

Yet how do advertisers define "beauty?" Research shows that society and media's current characteristics of beauty include thin body, big eyes, full lips, flawless skin, and high cheekbones.8 All these attributes are hallmarks of youth, and all except for thinness are considered crosscultural qualities of beauty.9

Even so, advertising models' looks differ. They vary in their physical attributes and personified qualities such as elegance or sexiness.10 Thus, researchers have explored different beauty types and how these types are best paired with a particular brand, known as the Beauty Match-up Hypothesis." However, these studies have not explored women's emotional responses to different beauty types in advertising. Given that "beauty...is transitory, indefinable, best understood in terms of emotion, and is ultimately subjective,"12 the present study seeks to measure women's emotional responses to these beauty types to better understand women's feelings.

Theoretical Frameworks

Social comparison13 and social cognitive theory14 provide theoretical frameworks to explain the key processes and assumptions in emotional reactions to beauty type. That is, women compare and judge themselves by advertising models, which influences their feelings, and socialization likely influences women's emotional responses. According to social cognitive theory, most social behaviors are learned by watching others' behaviors and behavioral consequences, which direct future behavior.15 Because the media are major socializing agents, they emphasize beauty as the route to social acceptability, and they positively reward the beautiful,16 women will likely buy products to achieve that look.

According to social comparison theory, humans are driven to evaluate their attitudes, opinions, and abilities by comparing themselves to others. However, this drive for comparison has three separate motivesself-evaluation, self-enhancement, and self-improvement-and each determines the comparison's effect. Self-evaluation, which is an accurate assessment of one's abilities, value, or worth,17 is based on the direction of the comparisons. For most women, comparison with a model's physical appearance produces an upward comparison-comparison with someone higher on an attribute-and negative effect.'" Self-enhancement involves comparing oneself to someone who will protect, maintain, or enhance self-perception," while self-improvement involves learning how to better oneself or finding inspiration from another to improve an aspect of oneself.20 Thus, it is likely that women will be more attracted to (i.e., be more aroused by) models who increase their self-enhancement and inspire self-improvement. …

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