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Friday, February 03, 2012

Investigative Activity: Social Perception


Investigative Activity 6:

Go to http://www.uni-regensburg.de/Fakultaeten/phil_Fak_II/Psychologie/Psy_II/beautycheck/english/sozialewahrnehmung/sozialewahrnehmung.htm. Play with this for a while and consider the implications of social perception and how it may be explained by cognitive perception. Think about a time that this may have impacted you and add a brief (paragraph, poem, etc.) note about that time and what it means to you to your blog. Now write a paragraph about how that might have impacted your learning experience, or someone else's in your life.


Because the full report was only available in German, it was difficult to thoroughly analyze the methodology. However, I did question several aspects of the study. For instance, what were the demographics of the sample? Could the participants’ own appearance have any context effects as discussed in the text and on the forums? Also, would it have been helpful to define attractiveness? Does attractiveness simply mean “sexy,” as one photo was described, or are there other conditions under which we might find someone attractive?

Despite these questions, there are several connections between social perception and cognitive perception. Feature-matching theories could come into play if participants are associating “features of a pattern to features stored in memory.” In this case, this could mean matching so-called attractive features of the computer-generated models with features they have judged as attractive in the past and stored in their memories. Also, if any of the faces were “distorted,” this could have an effect on the perception of the next face viewed, as could the impression of emotion in the models.

If the findings of this study are accurate, however, the implications of social perception are potentially wide-ranging, affecting a variety of relationships and life circumstances. “Attractive” people could have advantages when it comes to achieving success at work, making friends, and simply navigating through life.

There is something that seems inherently unfair about this. We are already inundated with images and messages through television, magazines, and our own inner voices that tell us that being more attractive will also make us more “content, successful, and exciting.” And there is now research to back it up?

In the past, I have struggled with my own self-esteem issues and have placed too much of an emphasis on my appearance. Most women I know have done the same! However, now that I have a daughter, I am even more concerned about this issue. I want to teach her that her value does not lie in how attractive she is, that her worth should instead be determined by her character and by her relationship with Christ.

Overall, the report raised more questions than it answered. As already mentioned, there are questions concerning the very definition of attractiveness as well as issues related to the sample and potential context effects. Also, related to a different kind of context, the study fails to take into account what happens when a relationship is established. Are the effects significantly mitigated when an “unattractive” person proves he is, in fact, friendly and accessible? Do these results carry beyond first impressions?

Even if there are concerns about the study, this is a bias that we can all watch for when interacting with others. We should be cautious about judging someone that we find “attractive” (whatever that means to us personally) to have worthwhile character qualities or vice versa.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2/04/2012

    Tiffany, this was certainly interesting. Here were my thoughts. None of those faces classified as "attractive" seemed PARTICULARLY attractive to me. I would have termed them more average. In fact, I thought that the first girl in the bottom row was only "unattractive" because her hair was accentuating her "different" combination of features. Those differences are the very types of physiological quirks that models exploit to become 'supermodels.' When one sees them sans makeup and hair-do, they often appear quite ordinary.
    Additionally, not one of those men seemed PARTICULARLY attractive to me. What I did notice in both genders was that where the features were somewhat more softened, and not NOTICEABLY angular/masculine, or NOTICEABLY soft-smaller/ feminine, the person seemed less attractive than some of the others (although still, to my eye, "average.") I wonder whether the brain perceives as "less-attractive" those features that it can not immediately classify as TOTALLY-MASCULINE, TOTALLY-FEMININE?

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