• Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Women are rated as less attractive by men when wearing business clothes compared to casual clothing

New research published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that men and women’s judgments of physical attractiveness and economic status are greatly influenced by how the other person is dressed. Moreover, men and women are judged differently for their attire.

Evolutionary theories suggest that men and women have evolved to prefer certain characteristics in opposite-sex partners. One of the ways that men and women may differently perceive attractiveness is when it comes to economic status. Studies have suggested that high-status cues enhance a man’s perceived attractiveness. Conversely, symbols of success tend to undermine a woman’s appeal.

Study authors Amany Gouda-Vossos and colleagues set out to explore the relations between sex, physical attractiveness, and economic status in two studies designed to mimic a real-world scenario — by using clothing as a cue for economic status.

Previous studies have suggested that people are perceived differently when presented within a group of opposite-sex others. For this reason, the first study involved images of men and women pictured either alone or among one, two, or four opposite-sex others. Participants were assigned to see either male or female targets and to rate either the targets’ attractiveness or economic status. Roughly half the male targets and half the female targets were dressed in business clothes, while the other half were dressed in casual clothing.

Results showed that neither ratings of men’s attractiveness nor economic status were affected by the presence of women in the photo. However, women were rated as earning more money when pictured alongside men than when pictured alone. Interestingly, these results were only found for women wearing business attire.

While some studies have suggested that “the mere presence of a man can lower perception of women’s status within an economic hierarchy” the authors suggest that being dressed in more masculine attire, such as business clothing, may defeat this effect.

Next, the second study found that men rated women in business attire as less attractive than the same women in casual clothing. Conversely, men rated other males as more attractive in business clothing than casual. “It was also unsurprising,” the authors say, “that female attractiveness was rated lower when presented in business attire . . . By presenting target females as high status individuals, it may communicate economic independence and decrease the attractiveness of female targets to men.”

Additionally, when subjects were shown composite images of the target women pictured alongside the target men, women were perceived as having a lower economic status than the men they were pictured next to. However, this was only the case when targets were wearing business clothing, suggesting that more masculine clothing may have a greater influence on judgments of economic status.

The authors conclude that “men and women both benefit from being highly attractive or high status, however, this benefit is not distributed equally . . . the results of the current studies reflect how this may lead to unfair judgments and, possibly, unfair treatment of both men and women.”

The study, “The Interplay Between Economic Status and Attractiveness, and the Importance of Attire in Mate Choice Judgments”, was authored by Amany Gouda-Vossos, Robert C. Brooks, and Barnaby J. W. Dixson.


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