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Agthe, Maria; Strobel, Maria; Spörrle, Matthias; Pfundmair, Michaela; Maner, Jon K. (2016): On the Borders of Harmful and Helpful Beauty Biases: The Biasing Effects of Physical Attractiveness Depend on Sex and Ethnicity. In: Evolutionary Psychology, Vol. 14, No. 2


Research with European Caucasian samples demonstrates that attractiveness-based biases in social evaluation depend on the constellation of the sex of the evaluator and the sex of the target: Whereas people generally show positive biases toward attractive opposite-sex persons, they show less positive or even negative biases toward attractive same-sex persons. By examining these biases both within and between different ethnicities, the current studies provide new evidence for both the generalizability and the specificity of these attractiveness-based social perception biases. Examining within-ethnicity effects, Study 1 is the first to demonstrate that samples from diverse ethnic backgrounds parallel the finding of European Caucasian samples: The advantageous or adverse effects of attractiveness depend on the gender constellation of the evaluator and the evaluated person. Examining between-ethnicity effects, Study 2 found that these attractiveness-based biases emerge almost exclusively toward targets of the evaluator's own ethnic background;these biases were reduced or eliminated for cross-ethnicity evaluations and interaction intentions. We discuss these findings in light of evolutionary principles and reflect on potential interactions between culture and evolved cognitive mechanisms.