P&G Study: Makeup Alters Our Perceptions Friday 30 December, 2011
Do you find yourself sizing up the woman who’s not wearing a speck of makeup? Are you judgmental of the one who’s rocking a fierce smoky eye? Whether you know it or not, most likely, you are. A study conducted by P&G Beauty & Grooming and Nancy Etcoff, PhD, assistant clinical professor at Harvard University […]
Do you find yourself sizing up the woman who’s not wearing a speck of makeup? Are you judgmental of the one who’s rocking a fierce smoky eye?
Whether you know it or not, most likely, you are. A study conducted by P&G Beauty & Grooming and Nancy Etcoff, PhD, assistant clinical professor at Harvard University and associate researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry, proves that makeup—specifically color cosmetics—does alter how we perceive other women, particularly in regard to attractiveness and character. The study, reported in GCI Magazine, involved showing 100 photos of 25 women’s faces. From there, it was like viewing yourself at different times of the day: Each face was shown with four degrees of makeup, starting without makeup, then graduating to light “natural” makeup, then slightly darker “professional” makeup, and then full-on “glamorous” makeup. (Or, as the study so scientifically states, “without makeup and with three different applied makeup looks that included varying levels of luminous contrast [different levels of light to dark makeup shades].”)
Two studies occurred: In one, the group viewed these images for 250 milliseconds. It was found that all three makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, likability and trust compared to the ratings of the same faces without makeup. (Consider this your common snap judgment, an instinctual response outside of your conscious control.) In the second study, the group had unlimited time to inspect the faces, and gave both the natural and professional makeup looks increased ratings of attractiveness, competence, likability and trust. Interestingly enough, though the “glamorous” look was judged to be equally likeable as the faces without makeup, it was found less trustworthy, yet significantly more attractive and competent. (Consider this your “judge-y” self, the one who is being very deliberate about why you don’t quite like a woman’s makeup look—or, on the flip side, why you do like it.)
Truthfully, this isn’t so surprising. We, as women, tend to size up other women on a daily basis. Adding makeup—especially well-applied makeup—may only heighten this. And, as lead researcher Etcoff notes, it’s not so much “may,” but “does.” “For the first time, we have found that applying makeup has an effect beyond increasing attractiveness—it impacts first impressions and overall judgments of perceived likeability, trustworthiness and competence,” she says. “In today’s world of self-portraits appearing on networking and dating websites, ballots, resumes and applications, the results of the study have broad implications.”
Do you find yourself snap-judging women based on their makeup? Do women who wear more makeup make you trust them less? Do you find these same women more competent? And, conversely: Does a woman who wears no makeup seem less knowledgeable to you?
If you’re starting to feel a wee bit bad about how much “judgery” you’ve been doing based on the amount of paint and powder a woman wears, don’t fret: There may be a silver lining to all this. Sarah Vickery, principal scientist, research & development, Color Cosmetics, P&G Beauty & Grooming, believes the data’s implications also suggest makeup can give women the power to determine which aspects of their personality they want communicated to others. “This study examined the impact of relevant makeup looks that women in the Western world commonly wear, showing that makeup is a real-life tool in their arsenal to effectively control the way they want to be—and are—perceived,” says Vickery. “Makers of color cosmetics and other beauty products can take these findings into consideration to further develop science-based solutions that empower women to display different aspects of their personalities and to really take charge of the way others see them.”
So I can wield a lot of power with the upward flick of an eyeliner stroke? Amen to that.
(Photo credits: Courtesy of MAC Cosmetics)