Eyes as predictors of perceptible physical attractiveness of women's faces
Keywords: human face, attractiveness, estimation of attractiveness, pregnancy, halo effect
Journal rubric: Empirical Research
For citation: Meshcheryakov B.G., Yushchenkova D.V. Eyes as predictors of perceptible physical attractiveness of women's faces. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2006. Vol. 2, no. 5 (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)
A Part of Article
Human faces are the most significant stimuli in the environment. In modern social psychology the significance of face attractiveness assessment in interpersonal communication is proved: physical attractiveness has a significant impact on primary impressions of one’s personality, on relationships between teacher and pupil, judge and the accused, on interpersonal contacts in many other professional activities, as well as on everyday life (Cialdini R., 1999; Bull R., Rumsey N., 1988; Patzer G.L., 1985). This is why studying factors and changeability of physical attractiveness is highly important, both theoretically and practically.
The main goal of the current research was to obtain new facts about the roles that different parts of female face play in the general assessment of women’s physical attractiveness, and also to explore the connection between the latter and such important events in the life of woman, as pregnancy and birth of child. As we analysed literature on the problem, we put forward the following hypotheses: 1) different parts of face play different roles in assessing one’s attractiveness, and eyes play the most important role in this process (this eyeshypothesis was substantiated in another article, see Meshcheryakov B.G., Cultural-Historical Psychology, №1 2006); 2) assessed attractiveness of women’s faces can undergo some changes over short periods of time, which is caused by pregnancy and childbirth (it is impossible to find more concrete statements in literature).
In order to test these hypotheses, we conducted an experimental study. The sample consisted of 10 men and 10 women aged from 20 to 30 years. Colour photographs of young women were shown on a display using a computer programme specially developed for the experiment. These photographs were taken full-face or represented several parts of the same faces (eyes, nose, and mouth). Each participant took part in one experiment that consisted of two series: in the first one, three different types of photographs were displayed (their parts and the whole picture); in the second one, photographs of ten women (not long before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after childbirth, randomly) were displayed. Participants were asked to assess the attractiveness of the faces or of the parts of the faces using a scale with five verbal gradations (‘extremely unattractive’, ‘moderately unattractive’, ‘indifferent’, ‘moderately attractive’, ‘extremely attractive’).
The eyes-hypothesis was tested using the multilinear regression. The results obtained in our experiment show that eyes are the most significant part of face as for men, as for women, affecting their assessments of attractiveness (at least of women’s faces). We found out that assessments of face attractiveness can be best predicted on the basis of linear regression equation with one predictor variable (‘eyes’).
Assessments of women’s faces attractiveness before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after childbirth revealed the following facts: only one out of ten women after childbirth was assessed as attractive, and women and men in our sample chose different women in this case. The other nine women were equally assessed as attractive before and during their pregnancy. These conclusions were confirmed by two-factor analysis of variance (conducted individually for each of the assessed women). One of the factors (intersubjective) was the sex of the participants, the other (intrasubjective) was the period in the life of the assessed woman: before, during and after pregnancy (‘time’ factor). In 7 out of 10 cases ‘time’ and ‘sex’ factors were statistically significant, and their interaction in most cases (80%) insignificant. Therefore, in general, female and male participants’ assessments of women’s face attractiveness in different periods of women’s life are similar, but there are significant differences in the level of assessed attractiveness (men are more critical towards female attractiveness).
The main conclusion is that such events as pregnancy and childbirth have a significant impact on women’s face attractiveness. However, analysis of variance cannot tell us in which period of life woman is assessed as more attractive in comparison with other periods. In order to obtain this information, we needed to conduct analysis of pairwise comparison of average assessments of women’s face attractiveness before pregnancy (‘Before’), during pregnancy (‘During’), and after pregnancy (‘After’). This comparison was carried out with ttest for aggregated data (i.e. average values for all faces were examined simultaneously).
According to the data in this table, there are significant differences in the pairs ‘Before’-’After’ and ‘During’’After’ in the female sample and in the whole sample (p < 0,01). In the male sample such differences, properly speaking, did not reach the level of significance, but are quite close to it (p = 0,06 и 0,07). The differences in the pair ‘Before’-’During’ are insignificant in all three cases. Therefore, testing the significance of the differences between the average values proves the fact that level of female face attractiveness before and during pregnancy is approximately equal and that it goes down (provisionally, we suppose) after pregnancy (after childbirth).
Thus, we can draw the following conclusions from the results obtained in the experiment: 1) different parts of face play different roles in assessing one’s attractiveness, and eyes play the most important role in the process of assessing one’s attractiveness (the eyes-hypothesis was confirmed); 2) the physical attractiveness of women’s faces can undergo some changes over short periods of time, which is caused by pregnancy and childbirth.
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