The Psychology Behind Cosmetics

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Your cosmetic choices could be affecting more than you realize.  It turns out that if we wear makeup, how much we wear, and how we wear it can drastically alter other’s perceptions of us, as well as their judgments about our competence, trustworthiness, dominance, and prestige.  The effect will vary depending on situation and gender, but there seem to be evidence based correlations between makeup choices and the opinions others formulate about the woman wearing it.

Prestigious vs. Threatening

Obviously, as the perceptions of men and women differ, your makeup will send different psychological cues to each gender.  To other women, the use of bolder, statement making makeup can make the wearer appear competitive and socially dominant.  In some situations this may be to your advantage, but in some situations it can backfire.  A job interview conducted by women, for example, is a good time to appear demure and submissive, not the best time to highlight your socially dominant tendencies.  Women also tend to view other women who wear makeup as more promiscuous, which can lead to feelings of jealousy, often inspiring social ostracization.  Since men do not generally perceive women as socially threatening, makeup choices a woman makes can cause men to view them as more prestigious.

Attractiveness vs. Grooming

It does not take a scientific experiment to show us that people who are thought of as classically attractive within their sociocultural norms tend to earn more money, acceptance, and respect from their peers.  The question scientists were asking themselves is are beautiful people being rewarding for their natural appearance or for their grooming habits.  The answer is somewhat uplifting.  It turns out that how much effort we are putting into our appearance is more psychologically important to the people around us than the appearance we were born with.

Two scientists Penner and wong decided to test this theory.  They conducted a series of experiments, and their findings seemed to prove that while attractiveness will influence one’s station in life, grooming heavily influences a person’s level of attractiveness in the eyes of their peers.  “Like other researchers before them, Wong and Penner found that good-looking people have a leg up in the workplace: Attractive individuals earn roughly 20% more than people of average attractiveness. This gap dramatically diminished, however, when the sociologists factored in grooming. ‘You can access the rewards that you typically think of being for attractiveness through grooming,’ says Penner. This was true for women in particular, for whom grooming was actually more important than looks when it came to earnings.” says an article in Fortune magazine.

Earnings

So, can you earn more money by wearing makeup when in a professional setting?  Studies seem to point to yes.  Despite the associated cost of purchasing makeup and other grooming tools and luxuries like waxing, nail augmentation, hair coloration and styling, it is scientifically proven that these habits will make you will earn more.  Fortune magazine states that “a well-groomed woman of average attractiveness makes about $6,000 more annually than an average-looking, averagely-groomed woman. She also makes about $4,000 more than her better-looking, but less put-together coworker.” 

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