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Effect of manipulated prestige-car ownership on both sex attractiveness ratings


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Previous studies have shown that male attractiveness can be enhanced by manipulation of status through, for example, the medium of costume. The present study experimentally manipulated status by seating the same target model (male and female matched for attractiveness) expressing identical facial expressions and posture in either a 'high status' (Silver Bentley Continental GT) or a 'neutral status' (Red Ford Fiesta ST) motor-car. A between-subjects design was used whereby the above photographic images were presented to male and female participants for attractiveness rating. Results showed that the male target model was rated as significantly more attractive on a rating scale of 1-10 when presented to female participants in the high compared to the neutral status context. Males were not influenced by status manipulation, as there was no significant difference between attractiveness ratings for the female seated in the high compared to the neutral condition. It would appear that despite a noticeable increase in female ownership of prestige/luxury cars over recent years males, unlike females remain oblivious to such cues in matters pertaining to opposite-sex attraction. These findings support the results of previous status enhancement of attractiveness studies especially those espousing sex differences in mate preferences are due to sex-specific adaptations.
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Effect of manipulated prestige-car ownership
on both sex attractiveness ratings
Michael J. Dunn* and Robert Searle
School of Health Sciences, Centre for Psychology, University of Wales Institute,
Cardiff, UK
Previous studies have shown that male attractiveness can be enhanced by manipulation
of status through, for example, the medium of costume. The present study
experimentally manipulated status by seating the same target model (male and female
matched for attractiveness) expressing identical facial expressions and posture in either
a ‘high status’ (Silver Bentley Continental GT) or a ‘neutral status’ (Red Ford Fiesta ST)
motor-car. A between-subjects design was used whereby the above photographic
images were presented to male and female participants for attractiveness rating. Results
showed that the male target model was rated as significantly more attractive on a rating
scale of 1–10 when presented to female participants in the high compared to the
neutral status context. Males were not influenced by status manipulation, as there was
no significant difference between attractiveness ratings for the female seated in the
high compared to the neutral condition. It would appear that despite a noticeable
increase in female ownership of prestige/luxury cars over recent years males, unlike
females remain oblivious to such cues in matters pertaining to opposite-sex attraction.
These findings support the results of previous status enhancement of attractiveness
studies especially those espousing sex differences in mate preferences are due to sex-
specific adaptations.
Research and debate has over recent years benefited enormously from the dedicated
input of psychologists well versed in evolutionary theory (e.g. Buss, 1989, 1992; Kenrick
& Keefe, 1992; Saad, 2007; Symons, 1979; Townsend, 1989) and in structural models
(e.g. Fletcher, Simpson, & Boyes, 2006; Fletcher, Simpson, Thomas, & Giles, 1999;
Penke, Todd, Lenton, & Fasolo, 2007) in matters pertaining to sex differences in human
mate preferences. The fruits of such labour have resulted in the identification of mate
preferences if not specific to one sex then clearly emphasized to a greater degree
in one sex compared to the other. It was Buss’s seminal cross-cultural comparison
of mate preferences that helped clarify that such universal proclivities did exist and
encouraged researchers to focus on the adaptive function of possessing such
* Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Michael J. Dunn, School of Health Sciences, Centre for Psychology, UWIC,
Llandaff Campus, Western Avenue, Cardiff CF5 2YB, UK (e-mail:
British Journal of Psychology (2010), 101, 69–80
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preferences (Buss, 1989). In particular, males have been shown to focus more
attentively and instantaneously on visual, physical attractiveness and for greater variety
in their consideration of coitally acceptable potential partners whereas for females cues
indicative of wealth and status assume a more pre-eminent position and appear to be
more salient in such attractiveness-related decision-making processes than is the case for
males (Aharon et al., 2001; Buss, 1989; Hassebrauck, 1998; Shackelford, Schmitt, &
Buss, 2005; Singh, 1993; Stewart, Stinnett, & Rosenfeld, 2000; Symons, 1979; Todd,
Penke, Fasolo, & Lenton, 2007; Todosijevic
´, Ljubinkovic
´, & Aranc
´, 2003; Townsend &
Wasserman, 1998).
Buss (1989) also emphasized that for females, male wealth, and status cue
information may come in an array of guises these being highly dependent on distinct
cultural and environmental factors. For example, having good financial prospects and
access to economic resources and higher social status may be measured in Western
society in terms of bank accounts and car and house ownership, however, in
traditional societies where such commodities are non-existent, females still show a
clear preference for males who possess or who demonstrate the potential to acquire
material resources peculiar to that society (see Betzig, 1986). In Western societies, the
strong desire by females for such resources is evident from accessing personal
advertisements placed in newspapers and magazines showing large differences in the
importance placed on this characteristic in females compared to males (Greenlees &
McGrew, 1994; Pawlowski & Koziel, 2002; Wiederman, 1993) and that physically
attractive women (i.e. women who are in a position to obtain precisely what they
want with regards to potential partners) do indeed tend to marry men of high
occupational status (Andersson, 1994; Taylor & Glenn, 1976). The perception by
males that their own status and spending prowess influences their attractiveness to
females is shown by the fact that males tend to denigrate their rivals by disparaging the
rival’s professional prospects, such as mentioning that a rival is lazy, lacks ambition, or
lacks clear goals in life (Buss, 2002), by displaying distress or jealousy towards more
socially dominant rivals (Buss, Shackelford, Choe, Buunk, & Dijkstra, 2005; Park,
Wiling, Bunnk, & Massar, 2008) and also in their willingness to spend on conspicuous
luxuries in a mating context (Griskevicius et al., 2007; Kruger, 2008; Saad, 2007).
Females, however, appear inclined to denigrate other females’ (potential rivals with
regards to attracting mates) physical attractiveness (Buss, 2002) and manifest distress
or jealousy towards physically attractive same-sex rivals (Buss et al., 2005; Park et al.,
2008). What is also evident when tracking these preferences over modern historical
time is the fact that despite the advent of the sexual revolution females still appear to
value indices of wealth and status approximately twice as importantly as males (Buss,
Shackelford, Kirkpatrick, & Larsen, 2001). Such preferences appear to remain robust
even in females who themselves are in possession of high wealth and status thus
precluding the explanation espoused by certain theorists that these preferences are
only expedient superficial ones and not more deep-seated, evolved adaptations
(Ardener, Ardener, & Warmington, 1960; Buss, 1989; Townsend, 1989; Wiederman &
Allgeier, 1992).
What is undeniable is that over recent years, economic prosperity and consequently
more equitable access to consumer items once perceived to be the exclusive domain of
men has now extended to women (Daily Mail, 2005; Jones, 2002). Women today are
clearly in a position to afford material and technological goods once regarded, at least
secondarily after practical purposes, as wealth or status symbols. One such wealth and
status symbol is ownership of a prestige or luxury sports car even though credit facilities
70 Michael J. Dunn and Robert Searle
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in modern western cultures permit purchase by individuals with more modest salaries.
It would appear that sales in prestige motor vehicles are now more evenly distributed
between males and females. For example, in a survey commissioned by Autoroyalty
50.61% of Volvo V70 owners and 61% of BMW Z4 owners were women (Autoroyalty,
2008). What remains speculative is the precise motivation for this contemporaneous
tendency in women to obtain prestige or luxury motorcars. Presumably, women like
men purchase such cars in the belief that they may either improve their own social
position in comparison to other females (intra-sexual competition) or that by elevating
their status they similarly enhance their attractiveness to members of the opposite sex
(Etcoff, 1999; Symons, 1979) or a combination of the two. Motivational factors aside the
objective of the current study was to explore empirically whether perceived ownership
of or at least association with, a high status car influences women’s attractiveness to the
same degree that it does in men.
Attractiveness enhancing effects of cues indicative of wealth and status have
previously been found by manipulating, for example, costume or clothing (see Hickling,
Noel, & Yutzler, 1979; Hill, Nocks, & Gardner, 1987; Townsend & Levy, 1990a,b). In this
current study, male and female participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of the
same photographically presented opposite-sex target model (male and female target
matched for attractiveness) either seated in a prestige/luxury (high status) or a standard
(non-high or neutral status) motor-car. Other cues that may have potentially enhanced
attractiveness judgments were scrupulously omitted, for example both models were
dressed casually and no other property cues were present. Although previous studies
have shown an enhanced male attractiveness effect due to manipulated high-status
clothing, the current wealth, and status cue (prestige-car ownership) is arguably more
salient due to the fact that obtaining such a commodity is, unlike ownership of a smart
suit, beyond the range of all but the wealthiest individuals in society and, therefore, can
be a more reliable or honest indicator of status. It has been argued that with regards to
expensive motorcars ‘you wear your status on the road’ (Barth, 2007) and with the
possible exception of a house or a boat nothing better epitomizes social status or an
assumption of lofty financial circumstance. According to the car insurance company
esure, a 2008 nationwide survey of male and female car owners found that around 90%
of drivers sampled perceived cars as being important status symbols. Similarly, male
prestige-car owners from Yorkshire to the East of England were shown to display
keenness in wanting others to see their cars as a reflection of their own success
(PA Business, 2008).
Also, asking participants to rate either live or photographic images of target models
for attractiveness is arguably superior to using verbal descriptions using somewhat
vague or abstract concepts as visually presented, opposite-sex, mate relevant cues
clarify, or disambiguate the research question directed at participants (see Hassebrauck,
1998; Townsend, 1993). In order to support previous findings showing that women
focus more on traits which they perceive as being reflective of a man’s wealth and status,
it is predicted that attractiveness ratings will be significantly higher in the
experimentally manipulated prestige-car ownership condition compared to the neutral
condition (perceived ownership of a neutral car). Conversely, despite the dramatic
increase in prestige motor-car ownership by females over recent years it is predicted
that males will not be influenced by experimental manipulation of status due possibly
to their evolved pre-occupation with physical cues and disinterest in female
status enhancement and will rate the target model similarly in the high and the neutral
status condition.
Status manipulation and attractiveness 71
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For the experimental groups (total N¼240), participants of whose ages ranged from
21 to 40 were recruited from Cardiff city centre in Wales. The sample consisted of males
and females divided equally into sex (N¼120). Additionally, 150 (N) undergraduate
students from University of Wales Institute, Cardiff; (75 males/75 females) were used in
a preliminary rating exercise to rate three potential opposite-sex targets of which one of
each sex (matched for attractiveness) were selected for use in the main study. A further
100 (N) participants (separate local city centre cohort) were used to rate the aesthetic
attractiveness of the cars alone (N¼25 per condition male/female either high status or
neutral status car). Finally, to confirm that the cars selected were representative of the
classification ‘high’ and ‘neutral’ status a random selection of new males and females
(N¼20) were explicitly asked to estimate the purchase prices of the aforementioned
cars from the photographs used in the main study. Inclusion criteria required
prospective participants to be willing to take part via verbal consent and they were
informed of their right to withdraw from the study at any time if they so desired. Males
and females below the age of 21 and above the age of 40 were excluded from taking part
in the study.
A between-subjects factorial design was used independent variables being sex
(male/female) and status (high status motor-car/neutral status motor-car). The
dependent variable was the attractiveness rating of the opposite-sex target model on
a scale of 1 (highly unattractive) to 10 (highly attractive).
Photographs of prospective target models and both high (i.e. prestige) and neutral status
cars were taken with a digital camera (Nikon Coolpix 5200). The target models were
chosen from a previous rating exercise, rated for attractiveness at approximately mid-
point (5) on a scale of 1–10 in order to preclude ceiling effects. The female and male
target models were both 23 years old. A rating form was also provided for participants
that contained a brief sentence instructing them to rate the opposite-sex model for
attractiveness and space provided to include sexual orientation. The neutral facial
expressions adopted by each target as appeared in the photographs were the same in
both the high and neutral status conditions as were lighting conditions, camera-to-target
distances and clothing (casual as opposed to status enhancing in order to preclude this
potential confound on attractiveness ratings). The position of the targets in the
photographs was also manipulated to maximally create the illusion of ownership (e.g.
relaxed posture in driving seat). Although not explicitly stated, as the physiques of the
target models were masked by their seated position the participants were essentially
rating the models on facial attractiveness. ‘High’ (Silver Bentley Continental GT) and
‘neutral’ (Red Ford Fiesta ST) status motorcars were used to manipulate status with both
motorcars being 2005 models. Both these cars were chosen because the net value
difference between the cars was deemed large enough to clearly warrant a difference in
status classification. More importantly, Bentley Continental GT’s retail from between
£ 60–90,000 and as the model used in the current study was a new model then the
purchase price would be nearer the top end. It was decided that the term ‘neutral’
72 Michael J. Dunn and Robert Searle
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would be used to describe the Red Ford Fiesta ST as opposed to ‘low’ status as such cars
can be owned by individuals not necessarily restricted to low socio-economic classes
(see Figure 1). The photos presented to participants for the purposes of establishing
both sex aesthetic appreciation of and awareness of the monetary value of each motor-
car were identical to those presented to participants in the main target attractiveness
study with the exception that the male and female targets were removed from the
photographic frame.
Data were collected over a 4-week period. Prospective participants were approached in
communal areas of a local city centre in Cardiff, South Wales. The numbers of people
situated in that area during a busy shopping period allowed for a diverse array of
demographic backgrounds and age. Respondents were approached and individually
invited to take part, those who wished to do so were quasi-randomly issued with a
photograph of either the Red Ford Fiesta ST or Silver Bentley Continental GT alone (for
aesthetic appreciation ratings and purchase price estimates) or for the main experiment
a target model of the opposite sex pictured sitting in the drivers seat in either the
‘neutral’ (Red Ford Fiesta ST ) or a ‘high status’ motor-car (Silver Bentley Continental
Figure 1. Image pairs of female and male target models as presented to participants. One image of each
pair was taken in a neutral (left) and the other in a high (right) status context (Red Ford Fiesta ST and
Silver Bentley Continental GT, respectively).
Status manipulation and attractiveness 73
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GT), and were asked to state how attractive they perceived the model to be on a scale
from 1 (highly unattractive) to 10 (highly attractive) in addition to their own current age.
These instructions were standardized for both sexes. Participants were instructed by the
experimenters to carefully follow the instructions (these being verbally clarified by the
experimenter) one of these being to arrive at their rating of attractiveness within 1 min
of being presented by the photographic images. Provision was also made for
participants to provide details of their sexual orientation and only those who indicated
heterosexual were included in the final analysis of data. Also, participants attention was
not in any way drawn to the motorcars present in the photograph they were asked
simply the rate the target model for attractiveness.
Method of analysis
All data were analysed using ‘SPSS 12.0’ on a ‘Viglen’ PC with the ‘Windows 2000’
application. Two-way between subjects ANOVAs with simple main effects analyses
were conducted on the data. Results were taken to be significant at the p,:01 level.
Matching target models
Before analysis of the main experiment could commence, both the male and female
target models used in the main experiment were matched for attractiveness (prior rating
exercise). An independent ttest revealed that there were no significant differences
between the male and female targets (t¼0.931, df ¼148, p..05) thus any sex
differences pertaining to attractiveness evident in the main experiment could be reliably
attributed to the experimental enhancement of status.
Motorcar aesthetic attractiveness rating and purchase price estimates
In order to ensure that any significant difference in the attractiveness of the target
models was not due to simple sex differences in aesthetic attractiveness ratings of the
two vehicles a silver Bentley Continental GT and a Red Ford Fiesta ST were assessed for
aesthetic attractiveness alone (independent samples). It was made clear to participants
precisely what aesthetic attractiveness referred to (i.e. how pleasing to the eye do the
cars appear) in the event of individual participants not being familiar with this particular
term. The results from this preliminary study are shown below (see Figure 2). It was also
shown that without exception respondents (separate cohort) gave estimates of in
excess of £50,000 for the Bentley and no estimate exceeded £2000 for the Ford Fiesta.
This clearly shows that both sexes are cognizant of the value of such cars (data not
Data were analysed using a two-way between subject ANOVAwith a between subject
factor of car (Fiesta and Bentley) and a between subject factor of sex (female and male).
Analysis revealed no main effect of sex [Fð1;56Þ¼1:3, p.:05, partial h2¼:001], a
main effect of car status [Fð1;56Þ¼276:5, p,:01, partial h2¼:49], and importantly
no significant car £sex interaction [Fð1;56Þ¼0:1, p.:05, partial h2¼:001]. Thus
male and females rated the Bentley car (high status) as more aesthetically pleasing than
the Ford Fiesta (neutral status) and there was no significant difference between the
ratings of each individual car within male and female rating scores.
74 Michael J. Dunn and Robert Searle
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Effect of status enhancement on opposite-sex attractiveness ratings
The main study shows that females rated the male target model significantly higher in
the high status context compared to the neutral status context whereas males showed
no difference in attractiveness ratings between the conditions (see Figure 3).
The main study data were analysed using a 2 £2, between subjects ANOVA with a
between-subject factor of sex (female/male) and a between subjects factor of status
(high and neutral). Analysis revealed a significant main effect of sex [Fð1;236Þ¼30:8,
p,:01, partial h2¼:16], status [Fð1;236Þ¼7:5, p,:01, partial h2¼:03], and
sex £status interaction [Fð1;236Þ¼13:3, p,:01, partial h2¼:11]. A subsequent
Figure 2. Both-sex aesthetic attractiveness ratings of neutral and high status cars. Aesthetic
attractiveness ratings were given to a Silver Bentley Continental GT and a Red Ford Fiesta ST. No
differences were evident between males and females for aesthetic attractiveness for each individual car.
Both sexes demonstrated significantly higher aesthetic attractiveness ratings for the high compared to
the neutral status car. Values ¼mean ^SEM.
Figure 3. Effect of manipulated prestige car ownership on both sex attractiveness ratings. Opposite-
sex attractiveness ratings were given to male and female target models presented to participants either
seated in a neutral or high status (prestige) motorcar. Females rated the male target model significantly
higher when seated in a high status car compared to the same male seated in a neutral status car
ðp,:01Þ. No differences were evident between male ratings of the female positioned in the high and
neutral status context ðp.:05Þ. Values ¼mean ^SEM.*Denotes significant difference between high
and neutral status conditions ðp,:01Þ.
Status manipulation and attractiveness 75
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simple main effect analysis revealed no significant difference between the high-status
and the neutral status female target model condition by male participants in their
attractiveness ratings (F,1, partial h
¼.008), however, females rated the male target
model significantly more attractive when the male target was seated in the high status,
compared to the neutral status motor-car [Fð1;236Þ¼42:3, p,:01, partial h2¼:15].
Additional simple main effect analysis showed significantly higher ratings for the males
rating the female compared to the females rating the male in the neutral status context
[Fð1;236Þ¼42:3, p,:01, partial h2¼:08] but no sex differences in opposite-sex
ratings were observed for targets seated in the high status context [Fð1;236Þ¼1:8,
p.:05, partial h
The results show that unlike in the case of female attractiveness, male attractiveness can
be enhanced experimentally by manipulating status. In this case, status was
manipulated through the implementation of photographic images that depicted target
models matched for attractiveness seated either in a ‘high status’ (Silver Bentley
Continental GT) or ‘neutral status’ (Red Ford Fiesta ST) motor-car. The male target model
was rated as significantly more attractive by females despite being captured
photographically in the same clothing and expressing the same facial expressions in
both cars. Males were not in any way influenced by the status manipulation in their
rating of the female’s attractiveness (again same clothing and facial expressions were
maintained) as evidenced by similar attractiveness ratings between high and neutral
status conditions. Moreover, these sex differences were clearly a result of the perceived
attractiveness of the target model in a specific context and not the motor-car per se (as
there were no differences in the aesthetic attractiveness ratings of the high status car
between females and males) or the attractiveness of the target models as both had
previously been matched for attractiveness.
It would appear that even though recent years have witnessed dramatic increases in
female ownership of prestige or luxury cars, such ownership does not enhance female
attractiveness, as is the case with male attractiveness. Confidence in this conclusion is
justifiably high, however, the results do show a main effect of sex (i.e. higher overall
ratings for males rating the female target compared to females rating the male target).
This contradicts the earlier preliminary study, which revealed that the female and male
target models were matched for attractiveness. This can feasibly be explained by the fact
that different samples were used in the earlier attractiveness-matching prerequisite
exercise and the main study. A student population was used to match potential targets
for attractiveness whereas participants in the main study were recruited from a busy city
centre, arguably encompassing a broader range of socio-economic classes and clearly a
wider age range. Also, it would appear that traditionally women often appear to give
lower or more conservative judgment scores pertaining to attractiveness than males
(Gladue & Delaney, 1990; Reis, Nezlek, & Wheeler, 1980).
What must be emphasized is the subtlety of the cues used to manipulate high status
in the current study. The photographs used only contained a single highly minimalist
cue relating to wealth and status (i.e. the motor-car). Moreover, as participant’s attention
was not explicitly drawn to the car it could be argued that the processing of high status
stimuli by females may occur at an unconscious level. Future studies will adopt eye-
tracker type methodologies to determine precisely what the sexes focus on when
76 Michael J. Dunn and Robert Searle
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making judgments of attractiveness in the presence of sex relevant contextual cues or
possibly explore qualitatively what factors both sexes consider when arriving at
decisions in such contexts. The fact that males appeared uninfluenced by the high status
contextual cue (the female was rated similarly for attractiveness in both conditions)
suggests that men do indeed focus if not exclusively on physical attraction then at the
very least they discount information that women clearly take account of. Grammer
(1989), in a review of the extensive social sciences literature on mate choice
preferences elicited by interview and questionnaire, found that men typically consider
only a single cue (attractiveness) while women consider as many as a dozen different
traits, including both social and economic qualities. It has been concluded that although
males are not repelled by female social dominance and high status such traits may be
irrelevant as mate selection criteria (Sadalla, Kenrick, & Vershure, 1987; Townsend,
1998). Hassebrauk (1998) using a visual process method found that men do pay more
attention to a potential mates physical appearance, in particular features indicative of
youthfulness and fertility than women and needed less time to determine whether or
not they regarded a potential mate as physically attractive. Although not quantified, male
participants in the current study did almost unanimously appear to arrive at their
attractiveness rating before females. Other supportive evidence highlighting the
centrality of physical attractiveness to males was shown by Aharon et al. (2001), using a
fMRI neuroimaging procedure. They found that the nucleus accumbens becomes
especially activated in males upon exposure to attractive but not to average female faces
or other male faces. Recently, however, Maner, Gailliot, and DeWall (2007) using a visual
cueing task found that both sexes attention was biased towards attractive women but
not attractive men and that this bias was more marked in non-romantically involved men
and in women who felt less secure in their current relationship.
Prior to the current study, other photographically presented sex-salient cues have
been shown to influence male attractiveness to females. For example, La Cerra (1994)
found that females but not males rated the same opposite sex target as more
attractive when targets were shown to interact more positively with an infant than
when they were depicted ignoring the same child crying. It could be postulated
that females are influenced by such behaviours as a ‘willingness to invest’ by males as
it is a cue that was highly adaptive for females to be sensitive to (Buss, 1989) as is
sensitivity to status. Also, recent findings have elucidated another important factor
used by females in the evaluation of male attractiveness this being other female’s
perceived attractiveness of a given male. For example, Graziano, Jensen-Campbell,
Shebilske, and Lundgren (1993) showed that in judging male attractiveness females
appear to be influenced by experimentally manipulated negative ratings given by
fictional females. However, more recently, Jones, DeBruine, Little, Burriss, and
Fienberg (2007) found that female participants rated a male target as more attractive
if they themselves had observed another female smiling at the target and that this
‘social transmission effect’ persisted after the smiling confederate was no longer
present. Future studies will explore the possibility that male targets seated in a ‘high
status’ motor-car will likewise retain their enhanced attractiveness without this
stimuli’s continued presence.
In conclusion it would appear that male but not female attractiveness can indeed be
enhanced by photographically presenting opposite-sex target models seated within a
prestige or luxury motor-car. These findings are broadly supportive of earlier research
demonstrating that cues that are purported to be more salient in the consideration of a
potential partner in one sex compared to another can be manipulated experimentally,
Status manipulation and attractiveness 77
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and that this manipulation is perhaps more efficaciously achieved by presenting such
cues visually. However, as is the case with all self-reported preferences (naturalistic
stimuli, verbal descriptions, or isolated cues) it would be unwise to assume that such
stated preferences invariably reflect mate choices in the real world (see Eastwick &
Finkel, 2008; Todd et al., 2007).
Despite a noticeable increase in the purchase and ownership of prestige motorcars
by females, the results of this study suggest that any impression that may be made by
female ownership of prestige motorcars by males may be restricted more to a ‘non-
sexual attractiveness’ appreciation. Also, the results contradict the ‘structural
powerlessness’ hypothesis, i.e. the belief that as economic differences diminish men
and women will become more alike, as the rise in female economic fortune has not, it
would appear, emancipated them from attraction to cues that are indices of wealth and
status in males. Future studies using a similar methodology employed in the current
study will also explore the potential attractiveness enhancing effects of manipulated
prestige-car ownership on target models of different ages to determine if for example
the attractiveness-diminishing effects of age can be attenuated by high status
manipulation and to explore potential differences in wealth and status cue manipulation
on attractiveness ratings across socio-economic classes. Finally, limitations of the current
study may be that the focus has been exclusively directed at male as opposed to female
attractiveness enhancing contextual cues. As males appear to de-emphasize, if not
totally ignore non-physical attraction attributes when making attractiveness judgments
(see Grammer, 1989) then future studies that attempt to enhance female attractiveness,
for example manipulation of clothing to enhance waist-to-hip ratio could be undertaken.
Also, an examination of same-sex judgments of attractiveness using the current
methodology should be employed to unequivocally discount the possibility that the
results of this study are simply reflective of a sex difference in the effects of public
information on mate preferences as opposed to arguably more fundamental sex
differences in the processing of sex-relevant adaptive cues.
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Received 28 October 2008; revised version received 7 January 2009
80 Michael J. Dunn and Robert Searle
... Similarly, other researchers have observed simultaneous face-related At the top of the panel, we can see friend effects are driven by the target's attractiveness (increasing target attractiveness pushes friend effects towards negative), the group's attractiveness (increasing group attractiveness drives friends effects towards negative), group size (e.g., number of surrounding 'friends'), the social positive effect (e.g., as supported by identical target and friend images) and a memory effect (i.e., when faces are rated outside of view). Other effects (e.g., objects' influences on facial attractiveness, e.g., Carragher et al., 2019;Dunn & Searle, 2010) need further clarification that they are distinct from the confirmed target and group effects; hence the dotted line. Friend effects can therefore be viewed as an umbrella term that encompasses both the positive (i. ...
... In agreement with potential overlap between face and non-face processing, one study has shown cheerleader effects can be induced in a target face when it is surrounded by houses (Carragher et al., 2019). This is remarkably similar to other work that shows attractiveness levels in faces can be enhanced by the presence of apartment interiors (Dunn & Hill, 2014) and cars (Dunn & Searle, 2010). We therefore include this potential object related interactive influence (the 'Other Effects') within our friend effects framework in Fig. 5. ...
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Cheerleader effects, group attractiveness effects, and divisive normalization are all characterized by faces appearing more attractive when seen within a group. However, it is possible that your friends could have a detrimental effect upon your attractiveness too: if these group effects arose partly as a contrastive process between your face and your friends, then highly attractive friends may diminish your attractiveness. We confirm this hypothesis across two experiments by showing that the presence of highly attractive friends can indeed make you appear less attractive (i.e., a reverse cheerleader effect), suggesting friend effects are driven in part by a contrastive process against the group. However, these effects are also influenced by your own attractiveness in a fashion that appears consistent with hierarchical encoding, where less attractive targets benefit more from being viewed in an increasingly unattractive group than attractive targets. Our final experiment demonstrates that the company of others not only alters our attractiveness, but also induces shifts in how average or distinctive a target face appears too, with these averageness effects associated with the friend effects observed in our first experiment. We present a Friend Effects Framework within which ‘friend effects’ is an umbrella term for the positive (e.g., cheerleader effects, group attractiveness effects) and negative (i.e., the reverse cheerleader effect) ways in which hierarchical encoding, group contrastive effects, and other influences of friends can have on your attractiveness.
... Resources are generally measured as present income or other material assets, and numerous studies point toward the importance of having resources to be considered a good long-term partner to women (Kenrick et al., 1990;Townsend and Levy, 1990;Li et al., 2002;Hitsch et al., 2010;Anderson and Klofstad, 2012;Fales et al., 2016). Furthermore, economic resources may influence women's perception of men's attractiveness (Dunn and Searle, 2010;Shuler and McCord, 2010;Dunn and Hill, 2014;Wang et al., 2018). Other measures of economic resources are traits such as the thriving or ability to generate resources-measured as educational level, intelligence, ambition, or industriousness-and are deemed similarly desirable by women while choosing a long-term partner (Marlowe, 2004;Souza et al., 2016). ...
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From an evolutionary perspective, phenotypic, social, and environmental factors help to shape the different costs and benefits of pursuing different reproductive strategies (or a mixture of them) from one individual to another. Since men’s reproductive success is mainly constrained to women’s availability, their mating orientations should be partially calibrated by features that women prefer in a potential partner. For long-term relationships, women prefer traits that signal access to resources, protection skills, and the willingness to share them. Using generalized linear models with laboratory data taken from a Chilean population ( N = 197), this study aimed to test whether real and potential resources (measured as self-reported socioeconomic status), protection skills (measured as handgrip strength), and the willingness to provide resources and protection (measured as their disposition toward parenthood) are related to mating orientation in men. Our predictions were: (1) socioeconomic status would be positively associated with long-term and short-term mating orientation but for long-term-oriented individuals, this would be enhanced by having a more favorable parenthood disposition and (2) strength would be positively related to long-term mating orientation in men with higher socioeconomic status and a favorable disposition toward parenthood and it would have a positive and direct association with short-term mating orientation. Our results partially supported the first hypothesis, since men with higher socioeconomic status were more long-term oriented, but parenting disposition did not moderate this effect. Contrary to our expectations, socioeconomic status was not related to short-term mating orientation. Strength appeared not to be significant for long-term mating orientation, even interacting with other traits. However, strength by itself was powerfully linked with a short-term mating orientation. Our results suggest that only some individuals that are attractive for long-term relationships are indeed long-term oriented and may reflect the overall conflict of interests between mating strategies among sexes.
... Firstly, the results of this study indicate tourists from collectivistic cultures show a greater range of culinary consumption when accompanied by opposite partners, the finding is in line with Townsend and Levy (1990), their findings heightened preference for opposite partners with resources is expected to be more attractive. Indeed, females perceived men as more desirable when they exhibit signals to resource access (Dunn and Searle, 2010). In the literature on consumer behavior, Cheng et al. (2013) reveal that an opposite-gender companion is more likely to induce impulse consumptions. ...
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This article explores the role of national culture in the culinary consumption behavior of international tourists and the moderating influence of different types of travel companions. Study 1 adopted a text-mining, topical modeling approach to process useful reviews (n = 7,803) posted at TripAdvisor by users from 86 countries. Study 2 develops and tests a conceptual model of the relationships between national culture and culinary choices including culinary types and range of culinary choices, based on a secondary dataset of large-scale surveys from the tourism authority of the destination containing 9,141 responses by tourists from over 60 countries or regions. The results reveal that both Uncertainty Avoidance and Individualism-Collectivism have significant effects on tourist food consumption categories and the range of culinary choices. The study also evaluated the role of the moderating effect of travel companions, and results supported the significant relationship on the range of culinary choices when the tourists were accompanied by different types of travel companions.
... High social status endows an individual with access to other vital resources, including strengthened social influence and better health, both physically and psychologically (Marmot, 2004;Nelissen and Meijers, 2011;Otterbring, 2021a). Conspicuous consumption-a proxy for high social status-facilitates the attainment of other adaptive goals linked to survival and reproduction (Penn, 2003;Saad, 2007;Miller, 2009;Otterbring et al., 2020), such as attracting mates (Townsend and Levy, 1990;Griskevicius et al., 2007;DeWall and Maner, 2008;Dunn and Searle, 2010). The latter is especially true for men because women, on average, prioritize the financial prospects of a potential mate more than men do (Buss, 1989;Li and Kenrick, 2006;Valentine et al., 2020). ...
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Population density has been identified as an ecological factor with considerable behavioral implications. The present research aimed to examine whether the mere perception of more (vs. less) populated places can change consumers’ luxury-linked brand attitudes. To this end, we experimentally manipulated consumers’ perceptions of population density using pictorial exposure to high (vs. low) population density cues. The results revealed a significant interaction between manipulated population density and perceived brand luxury on brand attitudes. Specifically, exposure to high rather than low population density cues resulted in more positive (negative) attitudes toward brands deemed to be more (less) luxurious. These findings support our prediction that high population density cues can shift people’s perceptions in consumption contexts linked to luxury. Our work contributes to the growing stream of literature on population density and suggests that this (geo-) demographic factor can exert important downstream effects on consumer behavior.
... For example, people who own expensive cars tend to be viewed as more attractive (Dunn & Searle, 2010). Combined, this research indicates that more than being "mere things," people engage with objects at a deeper psychological level. ...
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For most of human history we have ascribed human‐like capacities to other entities (anthropomorphism). Recently, the digital age has created new entities: virtual agents (VAs). Increasingly, these virtual entities are complex and human‐like, specifically designed to elicit anthropomorphism from their owners and users. We employ social psychological research and theory to review how, why, and when people come to anthropomorphize VAs. Moving beyond static representations, we examine the dynamics of human‐VA relationships and how they are encroaching on the closest of human relationships, virtual love. We use the social psychology of close relationships to examine the ways in which people may form, maintain, and terminate relationships with VAs. We conclude by examining the potential costs and benefits of these new relationships.
... Single-item scales were used to reduce the intrusiveness of the survey per wishes of the bar manager, and with the validity of such scales in mind (Bergkvist & Rossiter, 2007). Attractiveness was not specified as physical attractiveness as in, for instance, Johnco et al. (2010) and Sprecher et al. (1984), but in a more generic sense (Dunn & Hill, 2014;Dunn & Searle, 2010). This was done to capture variance from more than just physical appearance in the measure and because physical attractiveness, viewed in isolation, is not always a good predictor of mate value (Fisher et al., 2008). ...
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Across three studies, the present research examined beliefs and real-world responses pertaining to whether bar patrons' self-rated attractiveness would be higher later in the night. Contrary to beliefs held by lay people (Study 1A) and researchers in relevant disciplines (Study 1B), the results of a field study (Study 2) revealed that patrons perceived themselves as more attractive at later times, regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed. Relationship status moderated this time-contingent finding, which only applied to patrons who were single. However, consistent with sexual strategies theory, this interplay was further moderated by the patrons' sex. Men rated themselves as more attractive later in the night regardless of their relationship status, whereas this "pretty" pattern only held for single women. Taken together, the current work highlights the concept of time in forming consumers' evaluative judgments and adds to the literature on the closing time effect.
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Few studies have been done on the effects of video games on social perception, especially on the faces of players. The present study investigated how people’s gaming skill influences their perceived facial attractiveness, and also how sexual dimorphism features (masculine and feminine) interplayed with displayed gaming skill. We asked players (N = 147) and non-players (N = 167) to evaluate the attractiveness of masculinized and feminized facial images, along with perception of gaming skills (high gaming skill or low gaming skill). The results indicated that game players perceived facial images accompanied by higher gaming skill information were more attractive than facial images accompanied by lower gaming skill information. However, for participants without gaming experience (i.e., non-players), gaming skill information did not influence their evaluation of attractiveness. We believe players might consider higher gaming skills as social knowledge which can positively influence people’s perception of their attractiveness; on the other hand, non-players did not perceive gaming skills as important social knowledge, hence attractiveness ratings were unaffected. We did not find any interactions between sexual dimorphism features and gaming skill information. To our surprise, only non-players exhibited classic sexual dimorphism effects in facial evaluations, whereas for players, the sexual dimorphism effect disappeared completely. We speculate that players rely more on social knowledge and less on configuration cues during facial evaluation, hence the effects of sexual dimorphism were obscured.
Purpose This study aims to analyze the role of religious knowledge level in influencing customers’ brand association and purchase intention of luxury cars by focusing on the Indonesian context and taking the Lexus brand as a case in point. Design/methodology/approach A sample of 159 respondents was taken from a population of Muslim consumers who live in Java province, Indonesia, and who have not had Lexus luxury car but have had other cars before. Using a quantitative research approach on primary data collected in several cities in Indonesia, the study adopts the partial least square as a method of analysis. Findings The study shows that brand association positively and significantly influences Muslim consumers’ attitudes on luxury cars, in this case, the Lexus brand. More importantly, the level of religious knowledge among Muslim consumers is shown to significantly weaken the influence of consumer attitudes toward purchase intention on luxury cars. The study also shows that brand association has a significant influence on Muslim consumers’ purchase intention on luxury cars. Research limitations/implications This study only explores the consumers’ perceptions based on their income levels. Further details of the consumers when making purchases of the luxury cars are not being considered; this includes who the decision-maker is, gender and education level. Practical implications There are several important implications that come from this study, especially on the risk of after-sales that will be experienced by luxury car owners, in this case, the Lexus brand. Luxury car manufacturers should show and highlight different characters in representing each variant or each type, to be more reflective of the intention and personalities of consumers who purchase luxury cars and not only to show the impression of owning the luxury cars. Social implications There are also social implications of this research where although middle- and high-income consumers do not always intend to buy luxury cars due to the role of religiosity that directs the Muslim consumers to evaluate whether it is really necessary to buy the luxury cars. Originality/value There has been a gap in the literature in assessing the role of religious knowledge level in affecting brand association as well as purchase intention, especially from a quantitative research approach and particularly focusing on the Indonesian context. This study including in responsible consumption as a good customer, which is one of Sustainable Development Goals items.
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Sexual strategies theory indicates women prefer mates who show the ability and willingness to invest in a long-term mate due to asymmetries in obligate parental care of children. Consequently, women’s potential mates must show they can provide investment – especially when women are seeking a long-term mate. Investment may be exhibited through financial and social status, and the ability to care for a mate and any resulting offspring. Men who care for children and pets (hereafter “dependents”) are perceived as high-quality mates, given that dependents signal an ability to invest; however, no studies have examined how dependents are associated with short-term and long-term mating strategies. Here, online dating profiles were used to test the predictions that an interactive effect between sex and mating strategy will predict displays of dependents, with long-term mating strategy predicting for men but not women. Moreover, this pattern should hold for all dependent types and, due to relative asymmetries in required investment, differences will be strongest regarding displays of children and least in non-canine pets. As expected, men seeking long-term mates displayed dependents more than men seeking short-term mates, but both men and women seeking long-term mates displayed dependents similarly. This pattern was driven mostly by canines. These findings indicate that men adopting a long-term mating strategy display their investment capabilities more compared to those seeking short-term mates, which may be used to signal their mate value.
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The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of consumers’ personality traits on self-brand connection and communal-brand connection with anthropomorphized versus objectified brands for high- versus low-involvement product categories. This study contributes to the understanding of human interactive personality traits on self-concept and their behavioral outcomes. Additionally, this study expands the elaboration likelihood model by depicting how personality traits can have different effects in high- versus low-involvement contexts. The results of this study show that consumers higher in extraversion and agreeableness exhibit more favorable behavior toward anthropomorphized brands (compared with objectified brands). Additionally, the effect of extraversion on purchase intention is mediated by self-brand connection and communal-brand connection, whereas agreeableness shows a direct effect on purchase intention. These findings benefit marketers by helping them choose the most appropriate product categories when marketing anthropomorphized brands. Moreover, these findings will help marketers choose the appropriate consumer traits in advertising to increase the level of self-brand connection, communal-brand connection, and purchase intention among their target market.
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This paper examines predictions from evolutionary and socio-structural perspectives on sex differences in mate selection criteria on a sample of 127 respondents from Serbia. The respondents, mainly college students, were asked to assess the degree of un/desirability of sixty behavioural and personality traits in a potential mate, on the 7-point Likert type scale. The sexes strongly agree in general ranking of the traits' desirability. The obtained statistically significant differences tend to favour the evolutionary interpretation. The largest differences are in the perceived desirability of thinness, strength, fearfulness, self-pity, fragility, aggressiveness, and beauty. Males perceived all these traits as more desirable (or less undesirable) than females, except that females valued strength more positively. Male respondents are less troubled by negative character traits of a potential partner, while females are less concerned with a partner's physical appearance. The higher status of women correlated positively with their concern with a mate's potential socio-economic status, contrary to the prediction of the socio-structural model.
Evidence is presented showing that body fat distribution as measured by waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is correlated with youthfulness, reproductive endocrinologic status, and long-term health risk in women. Three studies show that men judge women with low WHR as attractive. Study 1 documents that minor changes in WHRs of Miss America winners and Playboy playmates have occurred over the past 30-60 years. Study 2 shows that college-age men find female figures with low WHR more attractive, healthier, and of greater reproductive value than figures with a higher WHR. In Study 3, 25- to 85-year-old men were found to prefer female figures with lower WHR and assign them higher ratings of attractiveness and reproductive potential. It is suggested that WHR represents an important bodily feature associated with physical attractiveness as well as with health and reproductive potential. A hypothesis is proposed to explain how WHR influences female attractiveness and its role in mate selection.
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The Evolutionary Bases of Consumption by Gad Saad applies Darwinian principles in understanding our consumption patterns and the products of popular culture that most appeal to individuals. The first and only scholarly work to do so, this is a captivating study of the adaptive reasons behind our behaviors, cognitions, emotions, and perceptions. This lens of analysis suggests how we come to make selections such as choosing a mate, the foods we eat, the gifts that we offer, and more. It also highlights how numerous forms of dark side consumption, including pathological gambling, compulsive buying, pornographic addiction, and eating disorders, possess a Darwinian etiology.
The finding that women are attracted to men older than themselves whereas men are attracted to relatively younger women has been explained by social psychologists in terms of economic exchange rooted in traditional sex-role norms. An alternative evolutionary model suggests that males and females follow different reproductive strategies, and predicts a more complex relationship between gender and age preferences. In particular, males' preference for relatively Younger females should be minimal during early mating years, but should become more pronounced as the male gets older. Young females are expected to prefer somewhat older males during their early years and to change less as they age. We briefly review relevant theory and present results of six studies testing this prediction. Study 1 finds support for this gender-differentiated prediction in age preferences expressed in personal advertisements. Study 2 supports the prediction with marriage statistics from two U.S. cities. Study 3 examines the cross-generational robustness of the phenomenon, and finds the same pattern in marriage statistics from 1923. Study 4 replicates Study 1 using matrimonial advertisements from two European countries, and from India. Study 5 finds a consistent pattern in marriages recorded from 1913 through 1939 on a small island in the Philippines. Study 6 reveals the same pattern in singles advertisements placed by financially successful American women and men. We consider the limitations of previous normative and evolutionary explanations of age preferences and discuss the advantages of expanding previous models to include the life history perspective.
A study of a U.S. national sample of females ages 25 through 40 reveals a moderate association of education, and a weaker association of physical attractiveness, with husbands' occupational prestige. Consistent with earlier findings reported by Elder, the contribution of education to females' status attainment through marriage seems to vary positively with level of origins and the contribution of attractiveness seems to vary inversely, except that the apparent effects for farmers' daughters resemble those for high-origin rather than low-origin females. The contribution of attractiveness seems almost nil for both farmers' daughters and high-origin females and does not seem to vary systematically by age. Among daughters of low-manual workers, education and attractiveness seem to interact, so that each enhances the utility of the other. It is concluded that the exchange involved in mate selection must be very complex and that the major exchange theories of mate selection probably underestimate the influence of highly variable needs, preferences and tastes.