Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Psychology

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Lorne Campbell

Abstract

The present research examined biases in appraisals of target attractiveness in response to belongingness feedback. Specifically, I hypothesized that individuals would provide favorable attractiveness appraisals of targets who accept them, and would provide unfavorable attractiveness appraisals of targets who reject them. I hypothesized further that biased appraisals would be most pronounced when people received feedback from opposite-sex targets. Two literatures guided the development of the present research. The first literature underscores the power of reciprocal liking – people like those who like them. In mirror fashion, people are highly critical of targets who deny opportunities for social affiliation. The second literature has uncovered that physical attractiveness assessments are subject to influence by nonphysical antecedents. Indeed, the New Look approach to perception argues that top-down processes, such as motivation, color people’s fundamental perceptions of stimuli. In three studies, participants were met with acceptance feedback from an ostensible other, rejection feedback, or neutral feedback. In two of the studies, participants judged rejecting targets as decidedly less attractive than nonrejecting targets. In one study, participants judged accepting targets as more attractive than nonaccepting targets. Although these findings, taken together, were consistent with hypotheses, the effect of belongingness feedback on attractiveness judgments did not differ for opposite-sex versus same-sex targets. Furthermore, the effect appears to be but one component of a general strategy of a rater to uniformly exalt accepting targets and uniformly censure rejecting targets. Study 3 included a face recognition task thought to reflect more directly the outcomes of visual perception. In that study, participants who felt high rapport with accepting opposite-sex targets misrecognized the target as particularly attractive; participants who felt low rapport with accepting opposite-sex targets misrecognized the target as particularly unattractive. The pattern of results across the three studies suggests that research on appraisals of attractiveness needs to distinguish between subjective judgments of attractiveness and objective perception of attractiveness. I elaborate on additional implications of the present findings, as well as address limitations of the research and discuss promising avenues for future study.


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