Beauty is “more” in the eye of the beholder…..
Joshua Foster (2008) conducted a study that expands on the research that explores the role of visual and olfactory cues in attractiveness ratings. Previous studies – which found that olfactory cues may be as influential or more influential in evaluating attractiveness – have relied on retrospective reports from participants. Foster’s design utilized real-time, in-the-moment attractiveness ratings made by women (n=44/mean age=24) of young men’s (n=21/mean age=23) worn t-shirt odors and facial photographs. Foster compared the ratings of normally cycling (labelled “fertile”) and atypically cycling women (i.e., pregnant/taking hormonal contraceptives – labelled ‘infertile’). Separate ratings were made on pleasantness, sexiness, and attractiveness – which all loaded onto a single component – so the ratings were averaged in the regression calculations.
Both the visual cues in the facial photographs and the olfactory cues in the worn t-shirts contributed to overall attractiveness ratings. Visual cues, however, were significantly more important in determining attractiveness ratings than were olfactory cues. There was a trend in the data suggesting that olfactory cues played a larger role in normal cycling women’s ratings, though, this study lacked the power to unequivocally capture this possible phenomenon.
- Utilized a real-time, rather than retrospective methodology
- Nice checks for odor confounds
- Atypical use of the terms fertile/infertile – reference seems to be to normal cycling or pregnant/using hormonal contraceptives
- Visual stimuli limited to facial attractiveness
Photo courtesy of Snorky/Wikipedia Commons
Foster, J. (2008). Beauty Is Mostly in the Eye of the Beholder: Olfactory Versus Visual Cues of Attractiveness The Journal of Social Psychology, 148 (6), 765-774 DOI: 10.3200/SOCP.148.6.765-774