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The contrast effect in judgments of physical attractiveness of self and others

Dimitrakopoulos, Christos; (1996) The contrast effect in judgments of physical attractiveness of self and others. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis proposes that judgments of attractiveness are necessarily relativistic. The scope of investigation was the contrast effect in judgments of physical attractiveness of self and strangers. As it stands, the effect predicts that exposure to highly attractive individuals will make people rate their own attractiveness or the attractiveness of others as lower. On the other hand, exposure to unattractive individuals is expected to have the reverse effect. This thesis deals with a number of issues of the contrast effect in judgments of attractiveness which have until now remained unclarified or unexplored. The theoretical part of the thesis covers issues such as the general theories of context effects, specifying the conditions when contrast or the opposite effect, assimilation are predicted, the importance of physical attractiveness for humans, as well as conventional definitions of it, the influence of the media in shaping people's attractiveness standards, and the applicability of Social Comparison theory on some of the issues under investigation. The findings of the thesis indicated that the contrast effect in judgments of attractiveness of strangers is a robust effect with considerable cross-cultural and cross-situational generality. Based on the results, a hypothesis was formulated on how the number of attractive people one is exposed to affects their ratings of attractiveness of others. Furthermore, the similarity between the target and the primes was found to promote the effect, however, the specificity of this similarity extended only as far as the sex of the stimuli. In line with previous findings the evidence on the contrast effect on self-ratings of attractiveness proved equivocal. The thesis tested two likely factors of this elusiveness and obtained encouraging data from one of them. Finally, the ubiquitous aim of the current work to test the ecological validity of the contrast effect in judgments of attractiveness placed the importance of the phenomenon in perspective.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The contrast effect in judgments of physical attractiveness of self and others
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099693
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