On the borders of harmful and helpful beauty biases: The biasing effects of physical attractiveness depend on sex and ethnicity

Maria Agthe*, Maria Strobel, Matthias Spörrle, Michaela Pfundmair, Jon K. Maner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research with European Caucasian samples demonstrates that attractiveness-based biases in social evaluation depend on the constellation of the sex of the evaluator and the sex of the target: Whereas people generally show positive biases toward attractive opposite-sex persons, they show less positive or even negative biases toward attractive same-sex persons. By examining these biases both within and between different ethnicities, the current studies provide new evidence for both the generalizability and the specificity of these attractiveness-based social perception biases. Examining within-ethnicity effects, Study 1 is the first to demonstrate that samples from diverse ethnic backgrounds parallel the finding of European Caucasian samples: The advantageous or adverse effects of attractiveness depend on the gender constellation of the evaluator and the evaluated person. Examining between-ethnicity effects, Study 2 found that these attractiveness-based biases emerge almost exclusively toward targets of the evaluator's own ethnic background; these biases were reduced or eliminated for cross-ethnicity evaluations and interaction intentions. We discuss these findings in light of evolutionary principles and reflect on potential interactions between culture and evolved cognitive mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalEvolutionary Psychology
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 7 2016

Keywords

  • Biological sex
  • Cognitive bias
  • Ethnicity
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Social evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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