Young women become more vain during recessions, U of M prof finds

lipstick effect.jpeg
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Do young women become more vain during tough economic times? One U of M prof thinks so.
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A new study co-authored by Vlad Griskevicius, a psychology professor at the U of M's Carlson's School of Management, finds that young women are more apt to invest in their physical appearance during recessions.

Entitled "Boosting Beauty in Economic Decline: Mating, Spending, and the Lipstick Effect," the study is rejected by some academics who think researchers overgeneralized in attributing their findings to 'women's psychology.'

Researchers took 154 university students -- 82 women and 72 men -- and gave them fictitious news article about the dire economy. They were then asked if the articles led them to believe there are less people in their social circle with a good job, steady income, and good looks.

Unsurprisingly, researchers found that while the articles didn't impact students' perceptions regarding their peers' physical characteristics, it did lead them to believe less of their colleagues had good jobs and steady incomes.

The students were then asked about their desire to purchase a variety of products, including form-fitting jeans, black dresses (for women) and polo shirts (for men), and gender-specific toiletries. Men didn't show any proclivity toward particular products after reading the dire economic articles, but for women, a "significant interaction between priming condition and product type" emerged. Young ladies were more apt to want to purchase products intended to make them look good.

That "interaction" conformed with researchers' hypothesis, which was: "Because economic recessions are reasoned to prompt women to expend more effort on mate attraction, is it possible that they may spur women to spend more on products that make them more attractive?"

"As predicted, women in the recession condition reported a significantly greater desire to purchase products that could enhance appearance compared with women in the control condition," the paper says.

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