The Physical Attractiveness Phenomena (Perspectives in Social Psychology)

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The Physical Attractiveness Phenomena

Their research tends to be highly empirical and is often centered around laboratory experiments. Psychologists who study social psychology are interested in such topics as attitudes , social cognition, cognitive dissonance , social influence, and interpersonal behavior. The study of attitudes is a core topic in social psychology.

Attitudes are involved in virtually every other area of social psychology, including conformity, interpersonal attraction, social perception , and prejudice. In social psychology, attitudes are defined as learned evaluations of a person, object, place, or issue that influence thought and action Perloff, Put more simply, attitudes are basic expressions of approval or disapproval, favorability or unfavorability, or as Bem put it, likes and dislikes. Examples would include liking chocolate ice cream, being anti-abortion, or endorsing the values of a particular political party.

Social psychologists have studied attitude formation, the structure of attitudes, attitude change, the function of attitudes, and the relationship between attitudes and behavior. Because people are influenced by the situation, general attitudes are not always good predictors of specific behavior. For a variety of reasons, a person may value the environment and not recycle a can on a particular day. Attitudes that are well remembered and central to a self-concept, however, are more likely to lead to behavior, and measures of general attitudes do predict patterns of behavior over time.

The topic of persuasion has received a great deal of attention. Persuasion is an active method of influence that attempts to guide people toward the adoption of an attitude , idea , or behavior by rational or emotive means. Persuasion relies on appeals rather than strong pressure or coercion. Numerous variables have been found to influence the persuasion process, and these are normally presented in four major categories: Who said what to whom and how.

Dual process theories of persuasion such as the Elaboration Likelihood Model maintain that the persuasive process is mediated by two separate routes. Persuasion can be accomplished by either superficial aspects of the communication or the internal logic of the message. Whether someone is persuaded by a popular celebrity or factual arguments are largely determined by the ability and motivation of the audience. However, decades of research have demonstrated that deeply held attitudes are remarkably resistant to persuasion under normal circumstances.

Social cognition is a growing area of social psychology that studies how people perceive, think about, and remember information about others. One assumption in social cognition is that reality is too complex to easily discern, and so people see the world according to simplified schemas, or images of reality. Schemas are generalized mental representations that organize knowledge and guide information processing.

For example, one's schema for mice might include the expectation that they are small, and furry, and eat cheese. Schemas often operate automatically and unintentionally, and can lead to biases in perception and memory. Schematic expectations may lead people to see something that is not there.

One experiment found that white American policemen are more likely to misperceive a weapon in the hands of a black man than a white man Correll, et al. This type of schema is actually a stereotype , a generalized set of beliefs about a particular group of people. Stereotypes are often related to negative or preferential attitudes prejudice and behavior discrimination. Schemas for types of events such as doing laundry are known as "scripts.

Another major concept in social cognition is attribution. Attributions are the explanations humans make for people's behavior, either one's own behavior or the behavior of others. An attribution can be either internal or external. Internal or dispositional attributions assign causality to factors within the person, such as ability or personality. External or situational attributions assign causality to an outside factor, such as the weather. Numerous biases in the attribution process have been discovered:. Heuristics are cognitive short cuts. Instead of weighing all the evidence when making a decision, people rely on heuristics to save time and energy.

The availability heuristic is used when people estimate the probability of an outcome based on how easy that outcome is to imagine. As such, vivid or highly memorable possibilities will be perceived as more likely than those that are harder to picture or are difficult to understand, resulting in a corresponding cognitive bias. There are a number of other biases that have been found by social cognition researchers.

The hindsight bias is a false memory of having predicted events, or an exaggeration of actual predictions, after becoming aware of the outcome. The confirmation bias is a type of bias leading to the tendency to search for, or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions.


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The fields of social psychology and personality have merged over the years, and social psychologists have developed an interest in a variety of self-related phenomena. In contrast with traditional personality theory, however, social psychologists place a greater emphasis on cognitions than on traits.

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Much research focuses on the self-concept, which is a person's understanding of his or her self. The self-concept can be divided into a cognitive component, known as the self-schema, and an evaluative component, the self-esteem. The need to maintain a healthy self-esteem is recognized as a central human motivation in the field of social psychology. Self-efficacy beliefs are an aspect of the self-schema. Self-efficacy refers to an individual's expectation that performance on some task will be effective and successful.

People develop their self-concepts by a variety of means, including introspection , feedback from others, self-perception, and social comparison. By comparison to relevant others, people gain information about themselves, and they make inferences that are relevant to self-esteem. Social comparisons can be either upward or downward, that is, comparisons to people who are either higher in status or ability, or lower in status or ability. Downward comparisons are often made in order to elevate self-esteem.

Self-perception is a specialized form of attribution that involves making inferences about oneself after observing one's own behavior. Psychologists have found that too many extrinsic rewards such as money tend to reduce intrinsic motivation through the self-perception process. People's attention is directed to the reward and they lose interest in the task when the reward is no longer offered. This is an important exception to reinforcement theory. Cognitive dissonance is a feeling of unpleasant arousal caused by noticing an inconsistency among one's cognitions Festinger, Cognitive dissonance was originally developed as a theory of attitude change, but it is now considered to be a self theory by most social psychologists.

Dissonance is strongest when a discrepancy has been noticed between one's self-concept and one's behavior; for example, doing something that makes one ashamed. This can result in self-justification as the individual attempts to deal with the threat.


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Cognitive dissonance typically leads to a change in attitude, a change in behavior, a self-affirmation, or a rationalization of the behavior. An example of cognitive dissonance is smoking. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of cancer, which is threatening to the self-concept of the individual who smokes. Most people believe themselves to be intelligent and rational, and the idea of doing something foolish and self-destructive causes dissonance.

To reduce this uncomfortable tension, smokers tend to make excuses for themselves, such as "I'm going to die anyway, so it doesn't matter. Social influence refers to the way people affect the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others. Like the study of attitudes, it is a traditional, core topic in social psychology. In fact, research on social influence overlaps considerably with research on attitudes and persuasion.

Social influence is also closely related to the study of group dynamics, as most of the principles of influence are strongest when they take place in social groups. Conformity is the most common and pervasive form of social influence. It is generally defined as the tendency to act or think like other members of a group. Solomon Asch developed the paradigm for measuring conformity in the s. In his groundbreaking studies Asch found that a surprisingly large number of people would conform to the majority opinion and give an obviously incorrect response to a simple visual task.

Group size, unanimity, cohesion, status, and prior commitment all help to determine the level of conformity in an individual. This diagram representation of PAP emerges from a macro-perspective that extracts the essence of thousands of directly and indirectly related research projects combined with even larger numbers of less empirical, more anecdotal, observations.

These four stages, combined with myriad sub-stages, establish and promulgate PAP, along with its values through an interconnected continuous relationship of influence and reinforcement. It is written in all upper case letters nearly always without periods PAP and infrequently with periods P. In this context, PAP serves as a noun and is pronounced either as a one-syllable word PAP or pronounced by articulating individually each of its three separate alphabet letters P-A-P.

The delay related mostly to consideration that a form of the PAP abbreviation, as spoken in the English language in the United States, is most commonly identified in a context of medical procedures. A secondary consideration related to most standard dictionaries, which list the word pap as a noun defined first in a context of semi-liquid foods and second in a context of matters thought to be less than important. Analogous to most abbreviations, people use the PAP abbreviation in the American English language to represent literally hundreds of different things, entities, and organizations.

As I looked into the topic of abbreviations, people use the PAP abbreviation to designate specific different meanings within science and medicine, organizations and schools, information technology, military and government, and business and finance, as well as some in pop culture. Parents promulgate physical attractiveness phenomenon PAP to their children in ways intended and not intended.

In turn, these children further promulgate the phenomenon to their peers and, eventually, as they age and become parents themselves, to their children. Socialization or indoctrination of children with physical attractiveness phenomenon begins innocently with good, honorable intentions. However, lessons learned or otherwise embraced early about physical attractiveness extend far beyond childhood, as demonstrated lifelong in variant forms.

As a result, people of all ages consciously and subconsciously demonstrate their beliefs: positive, favorable, and complimentary to individuals of higher physical attractiveness and quite the opposite toward individuals of lower physical attractiveness.

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Physical attractiveness phenomenon PAP is universal. Therefore, reasons interpreted or offered to explain occurrences manifested in everyday life or identified in scientific research often go to the core of human existence. Among the different cultures between and within countries that translate physical attractiveness phenomenon somewhat distinctively, the similarities are overwhelming.

The findings document that people worldwide favor, and treat accordingly, higher physical attractiveness over lower, and the accompanying phenomenon transcends time, geography, and culture. Findings reported by research around the world consistently suggests extrapolation and generalizations that attest to the robustness of physical attractiveness phenomenon. Supermodel ……. Why is it that when you change the way you look at things, the things change? Through self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as the Pygmalion Effect, some attributions convert into reality in the lives of people depending on their higher or lower physical attractiveness.

How attractive an individual perceives himself or herself may or may not match the view from the outside i. Even with perceptions, attributions, and realities in their favor due to their physical attractiveness, some continue to endure privately a sense of doubt, inadequacy, or even revulsion over their appearance to extents that affect everyday living and even life itself. Why does it become important or has so much currency?

Evolutionary Social Psychology

Because physical appearance is conspicuous, tangible, providing unparalleled visibility and accessibility when compared with other less accessible attributes, such as, good thinking, skills, character etc. Beauty is a form of genius — is higher, indeed, than genius as it needs no explanation. It is one of the great facts of the world, like sunlight, or spring-time, or the reflection in dark waters of that silver shell we call the moon. It cannot be questioned. It has its divine right of sovereignty. Sloan Wilson. Few features about a person are as abundantly readily accessible as physical attractiveness, which accounts for a sizable portion of why people consistently use physical attractiveness as an informational cue.

Race and age demographics might be equally apparent with physical attractiveness, and might have exerted greater influence in times past, but use of physical attractiveness as an informational cue overwhelmingly transcends these demographic categorizations. Physical attractiveness permeates most manifestations of social behavior and culture, perhaps as has been the case for millennium and likely even since the appearance of life on earth. Scientific research has documented well this pervasiveness, even though it has specifically addressed physical attractiveness as part of appearance phenomenon for only a relatively short period.

Scholarly research investigations present an impressive depth and breadth of research methodologies with profound consistency of discoveries. Still, most people claim ignorance of, or indifference to, the force of physical attractiveness functioning within most everyday aspects of education, politics, business, law enforcement and legal proceedings, as well as social valuation, cognition, and interaction.

People who prefer to interact with others of the same race illustrate well the transcending power of physical attractiveness. Despite predisposition toward same-race individuals, people increasingly, albeit subtly without overt proclamation, seem to prefer another person of a different race whose appearance is higher in physical attractiveness than a person of their same race whose appearance is low in physical attractiveness. Some circumstantial data in support are —.

Moreover, scientific endeavors have unveiled findings documenting that physical attractiveness affects males and females of all ages, races, nationalities, religions, and affiliations in similar patterns. Another dimension to physical attractiveness phenomenon and race is the diminishing resistance among some ethnicities to enhance their physical attractiveness through cosmetic surgery. Besides, black skin scar much more easily than white skin. And I would give anything to have a figure like hers. At least one country, Canada, has tried to eliminate this scenario by canceling all national beauty contests as of , based on the argument they are degrading to women.

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Interpersonal attraction

This sums up the attitude that our society has towards relation of age with attractiveness. Age has always wielded a high-ranking role for physical attractiveness phenomenon, but its overt recognition and the explicit pursuit of younger appearances are more intense today than the past, and likely to be less intense today than tomorrow. One difference is that, although physical attractiveness always has been a significant factor for people of all ages throughout history, it has not been as explicitly important as it is today for younger and older age groups.

Open acknowledgement of the importance of physical attractiveness in our lives has expanded radically and increasingly among both younger ages and older ages. To look more physically attractive, a growing portion of elementary school girls diet, and a substantial number of junior high school boys use illegal body enhancing drugs. Between these younger and older age groups, a national survey in of more than 1, people revealed an overall average of Values and pursuit of greater physical attractiveness related to youth at the expense of potential perceptions of wisdom is neither new nor limited to any one country.

This practice is just one of many complex double standards of thinking in which long held thoughts and behaviors link aging more negatively with physical attractiveness for women than for men. Beauty discrimination referenced in the prior paragraph grants certain social powers to women of greater beauty based on presumptions about greater capabilities. People overwhelmingly equate greater physical attractiveness, in this case greater beauty, with better non-physical traits and skills.

The opposite or reverse would equate fewer capabilities, fewer skills, and less desirable adult characteristics for women who possess higher physical attractiveness. Sometimes people express these perceptions as jokes that a person of high physical attractiveness, or a woman of great beauty, cannot be a person also of high intelligence.

Nevertheless, people regularly demonstrate public recognition of the value of physical attractiveness through formal beauty pageants that continue around the world. In the United States, where the number of television viewers of the annual Miss America pageant has decreased significantly since its first annual broadcast in , the pageant has sustained viewers more than forty-five years, which longevity is without parallel when compared with other network broadcast shows that rarely sustain beyond a few years.

Today, approximately ten million people continue to watch the one-evening television broadcast each year for each of the Miss America, Miss USA, and Miss Universe pageants. Also unique among world beauty pageants, China, in , held the first pageant for contestants with cosmetic surgery. The genesis of the pageant stemmed from an year-old contestant disqualified because of her cosmetic surgery from another Chinese beauty pageant, who sued for emotional damages for that disqualification.

However, the importance of physical attractiveness seems no longer to diminish with age. Historical anecdotes to the contrary are decreasing rapidly today in a world where perceived age is more important than actual age. Directly challenging formal notions of natural selection, standards of physical attractiveness driven by the appearance phenomenon for much more youthful looking women apply even to women in their forties and fifties.

Factors other than evolutionary principles, at least reproductive aspects of evolution, can at times better explain contemporary behaviors. Despite standards for physical attractiveness that are sometimes unrealistic, the appearance phenomenon and physical attractiveness phenomenon compel continuous pursuit of improvements.

Pursuit is encouraged by improved cosmetic surgery techniques and technologies, easier access to and greater availability of cosmetic surgeries, shifting acceptance toward cosmetic surgery, and aging public figures who maintain their younger appearance. Witness the whopping increase of more than percent for Americans who received cosmetic surgeries in compared to ten years earlier 1. Among them is the well-known American pop singer Cher. At 60 years of age she possessed an appearance very high in physical attractiveness with features characteristic of much younger ages: lack of wrinkles, free of shrinking lips, void of drooping eyelids, exempt from thinning or graying hair, unfettered from less than bright white teeth, possessing flawless complexion, and liberated from sagging body parts.

No known biological code of nature would equip a woman of that age to possess those age-affiliated looks. Instead, a woman might pursue these younger age characteristics to escalate perception of her sexual capability in hopes of capturing other benefits to satisfy her needs. Similar wishes and values about physical attractiveness exist among even the most politically powerful and politically correct women.

Men of ages similar to the pop singer Cher, in their 50s, 60s, or older, might well pursue women whose appearance reflects higher physical attractiveness more consistent with younger ages than with actual chronological age. The motivation for men is not the sexual reproductive capabilities or lack thereof of these women. Rather, the likely driver for men is a perception aligned with an extension of physical attractiveness phenomenon. Of course, this, too, explains rather closely the motivations of aging women to pursue enhancement of their physical attractiveness to levels more consistent with younger ages than with their actual chronological age.

Many factors contribute to the dramatic changes concerning aging and physical attractiveness. Particularly in the United States and other western countries, the baby boom effect means the increasing larger population of people entering older life stages, accompanied with stereotypically declining levels of physical attractiveness and potential financial means to counter these declines.

The baby boom cited here comprise individuals born between and , a period spanning approximately 15 years after World War II ended. At the same time, improvements in medical technology for cosmetic surgeries are surging, and societal attitudes toward cosmetic surgery are changing dramatically more favorable. With people living longer than ever before, they experience a greater decline in their physical attractiveness than ever before. People in the United States today commonly live to their late seventies and eighties, whereas, in , forty-seven years of age was the average lifespan in the United States.

The impact exerted by physical attractiveness in every culture continues to be greater for females than males. Based on these data, physical attractiveness phenomenon seems clearly in charge; in fact, respondents placed people synonymous with high physical attractiveness not just merely at the top but a very large distance from other choices. People equate higher physical attractiveness with greater femininity for females and greater masculinity for males. Also, despite its abstract nature, physical attractiveness of females as opposed to males is more precisely defined or delineated, more well known, and has higher agreement.

However Body dysmorphic disorder BDD is a medical ailment believed to inflict males and females about equally. Professionals define BDD as extreme subjective feelings of ugliness regardless of a quite normal appearance, and people with BDD exhibit obsession with one or more facial or body features that may or may not deviate from norms of appearance. Few medical practitioners knew of BDD before the early s, but the ailment is neither new nor rare.

Professionals estimate body dysmorphic disorder to inflict approximately 1. Plastic surgery is becoming more popular among Americans. Contemporary scientific data increasingly confirm hypotheses that people associate higher physical attractiveness with perception of greater health, which then leads to people placing greater value on correspondingly greater physical attractiveness. This explains why, on top of the vast array of available cosmetic surgeries, facial treatments, and over-the-counter products, people continue to demand more and more prescription-required pharmaceutical drugs.

Advanced science is being used increasingly, even combining chemical and electronic technologies to produce new, pricey alternatives to reverse face wrinkles.


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A new facial filler product called Sculptra, approved The The U. The product, first approved in Europe in to fill creases and wrinkles, is now available in more than thirty countries worldwide. Use of FDA approved products such as Restylane and Botox for minimally invasive wrinkle treatments is growing dramatically to appear young and healthier. Physical attractiveness is certainly an esthetic for which there is no absolute gauge, but, maybe surprising, there is convincing agreement about physical attractiveness of males and females of all ages, when rated by males and females of all ages in all cultures and all times.

A reason for diminished plurality among races and cultures about determinants of physical attractiveness is that modern communications technology, combined with widespread acceptance of fashions and lifestyles, is producing what can be recognized as a global village, leading to a universal standard of physical attractiveness.

Looks of greater health and younger ages translate into perceptions of higher physical attractiveness, e. Widespread acceptance of fashions and lifestyles is turning the world into a global village, leading to a universal standard of physical attractiveness. There is no comparable alternative. Conclusions from their research corroborated a principle finding identified repeatedly by separate researchers — people with higher physical attractiveness receive higher pay. The Federal Reserve Bank research conclusion provides a sense of assurance and thus comfort about the accuracy of similar findings by dissimilar researchers.

For example:. To achieve the highest likelihood of best overall returns, a good financial portfolio should diversify among many investment components and alternatives. Expand your thinking, with realistic perspectives about alternatives to improve or at least maintain your PA. Most importantly be aware that appearance is a multi-dimensional landscape, in which PA is a powerful prevailing dimension with many defining features—some that represent assets and some liabilities.

A complete makeover is neither necessary nor likely appropriate to reap benefits of looking better at work. And remember there are many non-physical aspects that impact physical attractiveness. Adopting a balanced approach is the best way to higher Physical Attractiveness. Based merely on physical attractiveness, people continue to formulate complex notions about an observed person regardless of any available information to the contrary about the person.