Why contrast effect is an ugly monster...and what you can do to beat it!
Travelers Digest Magazine recently ranked the top 10 cities with the most attractive women. Stockholm, Sweden came in at the #1 spot. They explained that Stockholm looks like the set of a fictional show, “What Happens When Supermodels Work at a Convenience Store.” Farrah Fawcett was recently ranked as one of the “100 Hottest Women of All Time” in a 2011 edition of Men’s Health magazine. Farrah was best known for her leading role in Charlie’s Angels, her beautiful golden locks, and her sex status symbol.
What do Stockholm, Sweden and Farrah Fawcett have to do with your own beauty? Studies have been conducted to look at something called Contrast Effect. What this means is that our beauty is judged based upon a comparison to what is around us. Whether it is the other women at the bar, the models in a Playboy magazine, or Hollywood actresses, we are compared to prior stimuli.
Some may call this the Farrah Effect because a landmark study was conducted in which college students were asked to rank the level of beauty of a fairly average looking girl. One group was asked to rank this photo after watching an episode of the infamous Charlie’s Angels (yes, the OLD version!), and the other group was just a control group that did not watch anything prior to ranking the photo. This probably is not a surprise to hear, but the group watching the Charlie’s Angels episodes ranked the photo lower in attractiveness than the control group.
You often hear that comforting saying that external beauty does not really matter; it is what’s inside that counts. That is true to a degree, but studies have also found that there is a very high correlation between “physical beauty” and the “desire to date” that person.
It is also true that relatively few movies or advertisements have female models that are less than attractive. In looking at Google Trends, it is no surprise that Sports Illustrated sees major peaks when a swimsuit edition is released.
What these studies all suggest is that moving to Stockholm, Sweden would probably not be in our best interest. We should also avoid having a Sports Illustrated magazine on our end table. But is that even realistic? Is it possible to compete with all of this?
Something that I forgot to mention is that studies have shown that physical attractiveness is found to be more important for women than for men. What this means is that women are just as guilty, if not more guilty than men. What is the first question that girlfriends ask one another when they start dating a new guy? Is he HOT? What does he look like?
Perhaps females are just better at keeping this secret, and men are always made out to be the bad guys, the oglers, or the sex maniacs. Truth be told females are just better at keeping good poker faces. A recent news story found that male TSA agents were caught asking an attractive female to go through a body scanner a few extra times in Dallas.
This week I heard on the radio that a funny video popped up of a dignitary checking out a princess at a state dinner. What adds to the “humor” of this video is the fact that the princess is from Denmark, which was ranked as the #2 place to find the most attractive women!
What can both men and women learn from all of this? For women, we can realize that we are just as guilty as the men, if not more so. Maybe next time you ask a friend about a new boyfriend, ask about his personality first.
For men, learn how to keep your ogling under wraps. It does not do wonders for our self-esteem. Realize that the women that you see pictured in magazines are extreme outliers on the normal beauty curve. Not to mention they have professional make-up artists, dietitians, and a good air brusher!
And for everyone, realize that you are going to be spending a lot of time with the person that you choose to date. Looks are great, but if that person has an ugly attitude you won’t be having much fun.