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The Effects Of Hairstyle On Perceived Attractiveness

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Category: Psychology

Autor: anton 16 November 2010

Words: 1964 | Pages: 8

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 be rather large in comparison to the differences among the means.

In order to determine significance, two two-factor, randomized groups ANOVAs were conducted, in order to make the analysis more manageable. For the female participant group, hairstyle was found to be a significant factor, F(2, 143)=3.795, p=0.025, with an effect size accounting for only 5% of the overall variance while the observed power was 0.683.. Gender was also a significant factor, F(1, 143)=4.628, p=0.033, effect size of 0.031 and observed power of 0.570. The interaction between hairstyle and gender showed significance, F(2, 143)=3.099, p=0.048, with an effect size accounting for 4.2% of the overall variance and an observed power of 0.589. Post-hoc comparisons were made using the Bonferroni test for hairstyle and found a significant difference between the straight and curly conditions only, sig.=0.034.

Hairstyle among the male participant group was also found to be significant, F(2, 97) = 4.536, p = 0.013. On the other hand, gender did not show significance, F(1, 97)= 0.050, p = 0.824. The interaction between hairstyle and gender was not significant either, F(2, 97)=1.076, p=0.345. The effect size for hairstyle accounted for 8.6% of the overall variance with an observed power of 0.761. Post-hoc comparisons were conducted using the Bonferroni test for hairstyle and significance was only found between the control and curly conditions, sig.=0.021.

To further evaluate the significance of the interaction between hairstyle and gender for female participants, Bonferroni comparisons were conducted. The only significance found within the interaction was from the straight hairstyle condition between the male and female stimuls, sig.=0.002. This means that within the interaction between hairstyle and gender the significant difference only occurred in the straight hairstyle condition.

In conclusion, the hairstyle condition showed significance for both male and female participant groups. However, only in the female participant group was gender and the interaction between the conditions found to be significant. Within the interaction, only the straight hairstyle condition showed significance between stimulus genders.


The results of the present study conform to part of the hypothesis that photos of male stimulus in the straight hairstyle condition would be rated as more attractive, but the results, however, do not support the hypothesis that female stimulus in the curly hairstyle condition would receive more attractive rating scores. In general, both stimulus photos in the control hairstyle condition were more moderately rated in attractiveness for male and female participant groups. This evidence supports the work conducted by Rhodes which found that “average” faces are more attractive than “unique” faces (Rhodes et al., 2005) since the control group provided the basic model onto which the hairstyle was placed.

This experiment tested another dimension of the effect of hairstyle aside from the research previously conducted. Unfortunately, the lack of similar research on the topic limited our interpretation of our findings because there were no other studies with which to compare. However, the results suggest gender differences exist when rating stimulus photos on attractiveness. Females tend to rate stimulus photos by taking into consideration both hairstyle and gender for which seems more attractive. On the other hand, males generally rate stimulus photos based solely on the hairstyle, gender having no significant effect.

These results provide a new aspect on what genders perceive as attractive. Females differentiate and analyze the combination of facial features and hairstyle. Males do not. Thus, if a female aims to attract a mate, her job is much simpler than a male’s since a female’s perception is more complex suggesting males have more qualities to consider when presenting themselves to females. This makes sense when compared with behavior displayed by other animals. For example, in general, male birds are more brightly colored and visually pleasing than the females. Dugatkin (2004) suggests that the reasoning for this is that females choose partners based on physical appearance because of the “good gene” theory (p.186). Those that are more brightly colored, or in this case more attractive, carry better genes to produce more viable offspring. Another concept which supports this theory is that of parental investment. The parent that invests more in the care and raising of the offspring is the one who chooses his/her mate. In most birds, females have more parental investment, and thus choose their mate, the brightly colored male. Female humans also have more parental investment, and based on this concept, choose their mates on multiple dimensions. Therefore, males must display more aspects of attractiveness to gain the attention of a female for mating purposes.

According to the theories of good genes and parental investment, hairstyle in humans is only one quality of attractiveness that is examined by potential mates. When taking hairstyle into account a mate has better chances of being selected and passing their genes on to future generations, which is one of the main reasons for survival.


Clayson, D. E. & Klassen, M. L. (1989). Perception of attractiveness by obesity and hair color. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 68(1), 199-202.

Dion, K. K., Bersheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972) What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24(3), 285-290.

Dugatkin, L. E. (2004). Sexual Selection. In, The Principles of Animal Behavior (pp.182-189). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Pancer, S. M. & Meindl, J. R. (1978). Length of hair and beardedness as determinants of personality impressions. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 46 (3, Pt 2), 1328-1330.

Peskin, M. & Newell, F. N. (2004). Familiarity breeds attraction: Effects of exposure on the attractiveness of typical and distinctive faces. Perception, 33 (2), 147-157.

Rhodes, G., Geddes, K., Jeffery, L., Dziurawiec, S., & Clark, A. (2002). Are average and symmetric faces attractive to infants? Discrimination and looking preferences. Perception, 31 (3), 315-321.

Rhodes, G. et al (2005). Attractiveness of own-race, other-race, and mixed-race faces. Perception, 34 (3), 319-340.

Timmerman, K. & Hewitt, J. (1980). Examining the halo effect of physical attractiveness. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 51 (2), 607-612.

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