Female Perceptions Of Facial Beauty And The Impact Of Cultural Labels

The study was divided into two. The first was to observe the ratings and actions of the participants as they looked at pictures of selected young women and taking notes of their judgments between attractiveness and prettiness. The participants were made up of two groups of forty-eight heterosexual female adults drawn from first year students of psychology of the Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford campus, Ontario. They observed and rated a total of 60 faces using a 7-point Likert scale of attractiveness or prettiness having point 1 as the face is extremely unattractive, point 4 as the face is average looking and point 7 as the face is extremely attractive or point 1 as the face is extremely not pretty, point 4 as the face is average looking and point 7 as the face is extremely pretty. The participants looked at the pictures of these selected women and wrote down their judgment in front of an experimenter.

The second study which was similar to the first noted the duration of time spent on each sample of the picture as the participants looked at them. The time was recorded by special software without the participants’ knowledge. This part of the study featured 125 female undergraduate students in 5 groups of 25 each as they observed a total of 60 faces gotten from an already existing database of female pictures.

Participants in this second study were not required to provide Likert-type aesthetic ratings of the faces they viewed. This was to make them to focus on viewing the pictures very well as time was the major factor studied here. They were also assigned to one of five conditions of attractiveness, prettiness, cuteness, beauty and null/control. The independent variable being the duration of time each of them looked at the faces on the picture – the dependent variable.

Generally, the study revealed that some consistency exists between the perception of female beauty and the behavior of young women especially by looking at them, ie., they preferred looking at pictures of women rated as highly beautiful or attractive than the ones rated as less attractive or pretty. Although there are some levels of variation in the way young women prefer beauty and the way they express same. It was also discovered that another consistency exists between the way infants look at beautiful pictures and the way adults rate those pictures. Pictures that were rated by adults as pretty were looked at for a longer time by infants. Hence, infants’ perception of beautiful or pretty faces persist into adulthood.

Furthermore, reports also show that other factors are responsible for peoples’ perception of beauty. Factors like sexual appeal are in this category.  People might rate those they find sexually appealing as more beautiful than those they find less appealing, highlighting the place of attraction in this discourse. Therefore as “attractiveness elicits pleasure and reward to the observer, yet conveys sexual preference”, it could be seen as “unique among beauty labels because it evokes pleasure, sexual arousal, and elicits judgments of sex appeal even for same-sex faces.” (Geldart, 2009). This was more evident in the second research where the participants looked at the pictures without the presence of the experimenter and they were unaware that the duration of time they stared at each picture was recorded. 

Some kind of bias was noticed among women who did their observations in front of an experimenter, having given their sexual orientation as heterosexual, pointing to the fact that women may not express these perceptions of beauty in public. 

The study could be classified under correlational research rather than experimental bearing in mind that the researcher had records of previous studies carried on similar topics. Also judging from the fact that yardsticks used in the research as pretty, beautiful, and attractive are common words among adolescents and adults alike. Whereas he study focused on English-Canadian speakers, the author recommends a broader intercultural research on the same or similar topic to determine the general perceptions and ways of expressions of beauty.

 Critique 

This study is somewhat convincing as it exposes a very sensitive aspect of human psychology but may not be reliable. Albeit, people most times behave in certain manners that seem normal or sometimes abnormal without knowing why they act the way they do. Studies like this should try to resolve critical questions about human behaviors and not raising more questions than answers.

Researching about peoples’ behavior especially as it pertains to their perception of beauty, however, could be far from the truth because different people have different views and understanding of beauty and the marks of beauty, more so when parameters used in this research like attractiveness, prettiness, cuteness and beauty were not explained by the experimenter  to the participants. Judging by their own standards would definitely undermine the acceptability of the result of the survey. Already, there was bias among the participants in the first study where an experimenter was physically observing them.

In the future, a more extensive research could be conducted on different perception of beauty cutting across sexes and age bracket with a detailed and generally accepted definition of beauty and the scales of beauty. This, I think would be a better way of determining beauty as everybody not just people of the same sex or the same age brackets would adduce to the fact of the behavior of men and women in relation to  beautiful and attractive people. It may be surprising to find out that homosexual females may have a totally different view about beauty and/or attraction.

There are other factors associated with beauty that was not totally dealt with in this research. Differently people find different things attractive in people especially people of the opposite sexes hence, attractiveness may not correlate with peoples’ perception of beauty. To this regard, the research noted that some women gives an “exaggerated” rating of attractiveness of other women when compared to the way they rate men, buttressing the fact that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”

Also, this research noted that some women would probably compare themselves with media models who they see often, thus, their perception of beauty will be within the limits/standards posed by those models, also casting a doubt on the reliability of researches like this.

The above mentioned points are very salient and should not be neglected easily as they have substantial outcome of this study and similar ones. 

Notwithstanding, the authors of this research, given the information at their disposal and the method they employed, were thorough in investigation, lucid in presentation, incisive in analysis and logical in conclusion.  

 Brief Summary

As said earlier, the author of this work sought to determine the aesthetic perception of female adults by making them look at female faces as they rated them according to some marks like attractiveness, prettiness, cuteness and beauty. The study was divided into two. In the first, the participants rated the faces as either attractive or pretty using the Likert-type rating. It was noticed that they looked longer at the pictures they rated as more attractive than the ones they had rated as less attractive ones. The second study had the duration of viewing time recorded by a special software without the participants knowledge.

The studies showed that there is a consistency between females’ perception of facial beauty and their behavior. They showed preferences for the faces they judged as more attractive and they spent more time looking at them than at the one judged as less attractive.  This preference was even more pronounced in the second study where the participants were unaware that the duration of viewing time was been recorded. 

This study, alongside other similar studies goes a long way to explain the behavior of men and women as regards to their perception of beauty.

References

  • Geldart, S (2009). That woman looks pretty, but is she attractive? Female perceptions of facial beauty and the impact of cultural labels. Psychology and Contemporary Studies, Brantford Campus, Wilfrid Laurier University, 73, George Street, Brantford, Ontario, N3T 2Y2 Canada.

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