Contrast effects and judgments of physical attractiveness: When beauty becomes a social problem

Douglas T. Kenrick, Sara E. Gutierres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


Conducted 3 studies to test the hypothesis that judgments of average females' attractiveness or dating desirability will be adversely affected by exposing judges to extremely attractive prior stimuli (i.e., judgments will show a "contrast effect"). Study 1 was a field study in which 81 male dormitory residents watching a popular TV show, whose main characters were 3 strikingly attractive females, were asked to rate a photo of an average female (described as a potential blind date for another dorm resident). These Ss rated the target female as significantly less attractive than did a comparable control group. Two other studies with 146 undergraduates demonstrated analogous effects in a more controlled laboratory setting. In addition, the 3rd study indicated a direct effect of informational social influence on physical attractiveness judgments. Implications are discussed with particular attention to mass media impact. (40 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-140
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1980
Externally publishedYes


  • exposure to extremely attractive females on TV, judgments of average females' attractiveness, male college students, implications for mass media impact

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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