The Effects of Makeup on Self- and Other-Perceived Amount of Mental Capacity and Moral Status of Women

Kellie, D. (UNSW Sydney), Blake, K. (UNSW Sydney), Brooks, R. (UNSW Sydney)

Previous research finds women to be objectified more when sexualised by both men and women, in part due to the presence of a sexual double standard where women are judged more harshly than men appearing or behaving sexually available. Makeup, although able to enhance women’s perceived attractiveness and femininity, is also shown to associate with negative characteristics such as low self-esteem, unfaithfulness and promiscuity. The present two studies investigated the effects of makeup on self-perceptions of women and the perceptions of others of women. In Study 1 (N = 250) women applied makeup to their face and answered questions measuring self-perceived agency, humanness, intrasexual competitiveness and mate guarding resistance. In Study 2 (N = 800), men and women rated the same images of women from Study 1 on mental agency, mental experience, moral agency, and moral patiency). We find limited effects of the amount of makeup on women’s self-perceived agency, humanness, competitiveness and mate guarding resistance. However, women with more makeup applied were attributed less mental experience, moral agency and moral patiency by both men and women. Our findings suggest that although cultural standards encourage women to wear makeup, men and women may view these women as less mentally capable and morally deserving due to an association between makeup and negative promiscuity stereotypes.

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Reconciling Nature and Nurture Symposium