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Your Lack Of Mascara Is A Sign Of Your Utter Incompetence (re: Cosmetics as a Feature of the Extended Human Phenotype: Modulation of the Perception of Biologically Important Facial Signals)
A study from P&G Beauty & Grooming and lead investigator Nancy Etcoff, PhD., Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard University and Associate Researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, reports that women using color cosmetics does, in fact, significantly alter how they are perceived by others. Results of the study, published on October 3, 2011 in PLoS ONE, show that makeup application specifically impacts judgments of attractiveness and character when viewed rapidly or for unlimited amounts of time.
A new study has found that makeup doesn't just help you look pretty — it also makes people think you're more trustworthy and competent. That may be good news for makeup companies — one of whom sponsored the study.
According to the press release, a team of researchers at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital took photos of white, Latina, and black women, aged 20 to 50, without makeup. Then they photographed the same women in three makeup styles — "natural," "professional," and "glamorous." Finally, they showed the photos to several groups of people — over 250 participants in total — and asked them to rate the women's attractiveness, likability, competence, and trustworthiness. Turns out, the makeup photos trounced their naked-faced competitors in all categories. Faces with makeup, no matter the style, were seen as more attractive and more likable, competent, and trustworthy than faces without. The only exception was the glamorous look. When participants were allowed to gaze upon glammed-up ladies for an unlimited amount of time, they rated them as less trustworthy than their makeup-free counterparts — but still more competent.
There are a couple of creepy things about this study. The first is that it was sponsored by Procter & Gamble — which, coincidentally, recently introduced "a new color science model, Bio-Chromatics, that combines the principles of chemistry, optics and psychology to create biology-based color products."
Research on the perception of faces has focused on the size, shape, and configuration of inherited features or the biological phenotype, and largely ignored the effects of adornment, or the extended phenotype. Research on the evolution of signaling has shown that animals frequently alter visual features, including color cues, to attract, intimidate or protect themselves from conspecifics. Humans engage in conscious manipulation of visual signals using cultural tools in real time rather than genetic changes over evolutionary time. Here, we investigate one tool, the use of color cosmetics. In two studies, we asked viewers to rate the same female faces with or without color cosmetics, and we varied the style of makeup from minimal (natural), to moderate (professional), to dramatic (glamorous). Each look provided increasing luminance contrast between the facial features and surrounding skin. Faces were shown for 250 ms or for unlimited inspection time, and subjects rated them for attractiveness, competence, likeability and trustworthiness. At 250 ms, cosmetics had significant positive effects on all outcomes. Length of inspection time did not change the effect for competence or attractiveness. However, with longer inspection time, the effect of cosmetics on likability and trust varied by specific makeup looks, indicating that cosmetics could impact automatic and deliberative judgments differently. The results suggest that 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, and that the extended phenotype significantly influences perception of biologically important signals at first glance and at longer inspection.
Today, a new study from P&G Beauty & Grooming and lead investigator Nancy Etcoff, PhD., Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard University and Associate Researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, confirms for the first time that using color cosmetics does, in fact, significantly alter how women are perceived by others, even at very first glance. Results of the study, published on October 3, 2011 in PLoS ONE,, show that makeup application specifically impacts judgments of attractiveness and character when viewed rapidly or for unlimited amounts of time.
Researchers conducted two studies in which 100 photos of 25 women's faces were judged without makeup and with three different applied makeup looks that included varying levels of luminous contrast (different levels of light to dark makeup shades). The looks were informally classified as "natural," "professional" and "glamorous."
When viewed for 250 milliseconds, all three makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, likability and trust compared to the ratings of the same faces without makeup (all p < .0001).
Further, participants in the second study who had unlimited time to inspect the faces gave both the natural and professional makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, likability and trust (all p < .0001). The glamorous look, which had the highest luminous contrast, was judged to be equally likeable, less trustworthy and significantly more attractive and competent (p < .0001) than the faces without makeup. The reverse connotations associated with this look demonstrate that makeup impacts both automatic, instinctual responses and conscious, deliberative judgments, causing people to make impressions based on the visual alterations caused by cosmetics and their conscious ideas about makeup users and looks.