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The Effects Of Hairstyle On Perceived Attractiveness

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Physical characteristics from asymmetry to weight to hair color all have an impact on people's perception of attractiveness (Clayson & Klassen, 1989; Rhodes, Geddes, Jeffery, Dziurawiec, & Clark, 2002). Previous studies have shown that obese people are viewed with a negative stereotype and as more unattractive with an absence of personal responsibility (Clayson & Klassen, 1989). Levels of attractiveness have also been studied in several terms of facial characteristics.

Some researchers questioned whether attractiveness is a cultural phenomenon or a part of biological heritage (Rhodes, Geddes, Jeffery, Dziurawiec, & Clark, 2002). Their main focus was on infants and their ability to discriminate between the degree of "averageness" and asymmetry. The infants' looking behavior showed that they were able to distinguish differences amongst pairs of faces in the experiment. The results astonished the researchers because infants can acknowledge the difference between unattractive and attractive people much like adults can, which implies that part of attraction is biological.

Another aspect of attractiveness that has been examined is the halo effect associated with physical attractiveness: "what is beautiful is good" (Dion, Berscheid, & Waltser, 1974). However, other researchers have contradicted this theory and believe that it is overgeneralized (Timmerman & Hewitt, 1980). According to the work of Timmerman and Hewitt, attractive models are more likeable, but mixed ratings are received in terms of personality traits. Although their results were in contradiction with previous studies, they conclude it to be as a result in differing dependent variables. Therefore, the halo effect associated with physical attractiveness exists with ratings of sociability.

To many people's surprise, researchers discovered that average is more attractive (Rhodes et al., 2005). Rhodes states that "average faces cannot be attributed to blending artifacts, symmetry, or pleasant expressions...that average faces are more attractive than most" (p. 339). The idea of developing prototypes in the mind is one explanation of why average faces are determined as more attractive. For instance, after participants consistently view several distorted faces, a non-to-low-distorted face seems less attractive. This suggests that average faces are attractive because of their central location in distribution based on the experience of the viewer, and thus prototypes are rapidly updating in response to changes in experience.

Rhodes also suggests that race plays an important role in developing prototypes. He hypothesized that people would rank others of their own race as more attractive than others of different races. The evidence that supports this theory says that with familiarity the repetition of viewing certain average faces results in the assimilation of previously unattractive faces into the prototype (Peskin & Newell, 2004). In other words, the average faces of one's race that can be seen nearly every day should create a prototype of attractiveness. However, the results obtained by Rhodes found participants ranking mixed-race faces (a composite of Caucasian and Japanese averaged faces) more attractive than faces of their own race for both males and females. In attempt to explain the results, Rhodes proposed the composites created by computer programs may not be representative of their groups and, therefore, are difficult to suggest whether people are more attracted to individuals they resemble or not. Thus, the findings of past research suggest that, in general, people find others with similar attributes and characteristics to themselves to be more attractive.

The main focus of the present study is to determine the effect of hair style on perceived attractiveness. Several prior studies have already tested the effects of hair on attractiveness. In particular, a study of hair color effect on attractiveness rating found that blonde, brown, and black hair colors received similar ratings, but red colored hair received much lower attractiveness ratings (Clayson & Klassen, 1989). Also, the effect of men's hair length on personality impressions found that long-haired men were seen as significantly less intelligent and less happy, and more reckless and younger than short-haired men. This implies that there is a negative stereotype of long-hair men exist (Pancer & Meindl, 1978). The present study aims to discover how individuals perceive attractiveness with differences in hair style amongst males and females. We hypothesize that female stimulus with curly hair and male stimulus with straight hair will receive higher attractiveness rating scores due to similarities between the stimulus photos and the participants.



The study used 121 Ripon College undergraduate students between the ages of 17-24 years from History, Economic, Politics and Government, and Psychology courses who were randomly assigned conditions.


The packet given to the participants contained two photos of one unknown male and one unknown female. The experiment consisted of six black and white photos; one straight-haired male, one curly-haired male, one control male, one straight-haired female, one curly-haired female, and one control female. The photos were of the same male and female and were edited using Adobe Photoshop to superimpose the same curly and straight hairstyles on both the male and female photo. The photos displayed the individuals from 1 inch above the head to 1 inch below the chin with 1 inch along both sides.


Participants were provided with a packet containing two black and white photos, one male and one female, randomly selected with either straight or curly hairstyles. After viewing the photos the participants were asked to rate the degree of attractiveness of the individuals in the photos based on a 1-7 scale, 1 being very unattractive and 7 being very attractive.


The average attractiveness rating scores as a function of hairstyle type are shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2 for both male and female participants with error bars reflecting the SE. There was a relatively linear decrease amongst female stimulus rating scores according to female participants in Figure 1. The male stimulus rating scores, however, show no linearity between conditions for female participants. The size of the standard errors appears to be moderately small in comparison to the differences among the means. In Figure 2 both male and female stimulus rating scores are relatively linear according to male participants. The size of the standard errors seems to



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