Brief Report: The Effects of Women's Cosmetics on Men's Approach: An Evaluation in a Bar

By Gueguen, Nicolas | North American Journal of Psychology, March 2008 | Go to article overview

Brief Report: The Effects of Women's Cosmetics on Men's Approach: An Evaluation in a Bar


Gueguen, Nicolas, North American Journal of Psychology


It has been found that cosmetics do improve female facial attractiveness when judgments were made based on photographs. Furthermore, these were laboratory studies and no field study exists in the literature. An experiment carried out in a field context was conducted in order to verify if makeup is associated with higher attractiveness in a courtship context. Female confederates with and without makeup were seated in two bars on Wednesday and Saturday nights in an attractive spot on the West Atlantic coast of France. Each experimental session lasted one hour. The number of men's solicitations and the latency of the first solicitation were used as dependent variables. Results showed that the makeup condition was associated with a higher number of male solicitations and a shorter latency between the arrival of the confederates in the bar and the first courtship solicitation of a male.

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There is evidence that makeup has been used by women throughout history in order to improve their facial attractiveness (Key, 2005; Malkan, 2006; Marwick, 1988). Over the past decade, men have increased their use of cosmetics to increase their attractiveness (Malkan, 2006). The cosmetic industry is one of the most flourishing industries in the world. The question rises as to whether makeup really influences the perception of an increase in facial attractiveness, and if this improvement is sufficient to influence the courtship behavior of men towards women? Social psychologists have extensively examined how people form impressions about others, but the impact of cosmetics on impressions has not received much attention. A few publications suggest that cosmetics enhance the facial attractiveness of women who wear makeup. Furthermore, the stimuli used in this research lack ecological validity. Those stimuli are photographs that depict women in artificial ways, such as unusual poses with physical details obscured. So there is a need for research to examine the role of cosmetics in more natural, dynamic and three-dimensional settings. Secondly, dependent variables have been limited to the use of photographs. Furthermore, the effect of rated attractiveness on behavior still remains in question.

Literature examining the role of cosmetics on social perception, has found that, overall, make-up is associated with positive evaluation of a woman. Graham and Jouhar (1981) reported positive effects of cosmetics on judgment. Male and female participants rated color photographs of four female targets of average physical attractiveness on several traits related to appearance and personality. With facial makeup, the targets were rated as being cleaner, more tidy, more feminine, more physically attractive, as well as being more secure, sociable, interesting, poised, confident, organized and popular. Cox and Glick (1986) examined how average-looking women were perceived after a professional make-over versus cosmetics-free and found that cosmetics were positively associated with femininity and sexiness. Workman and Johnson (1991) instructed female participants to view one of three colored photographs of a professional model wearing either heavy, moderate, or no cosmetics. They found that cosmetics significantly enhanced the impression of attractiveness and femininity. Cash, Dawson, Davis, Bowen and Galumbeck (1989) conducted an experiment in which American college students were photographed while wearing their typical facial cosmetics and again following the removal of their makeup. Participants rated the physical attractiveness of the women. It was found that males' judgments were more favorable when the women were photographed with cosmetics than when they were cosmetics free, whereas females' judgments were not affected by the presence or absence of makeup. In a recent study, Nash, Fieldman, Hussey, Leveque and Pineau (2006) presented four women's facial photographs either with or without cosmetics. It was found that women with cosmetics were perceived as healthier and more confident. …

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