Sex differences in the perceived dominance and prestige of women with and without cosmetics

Women wearing cosmetics have been associated with a higher earning potential and higher status jobs.

However, recent literature suggests that status can be accrued through two distinct routes: dominance and prestige. In two experiments, we applied a standardized amount of cosmetics to female faces using computer software. We then asked participants to rate faces with and without cosmetics for various traits including attractiveness, dominance, and prestige. Men and women both rated the faces with cosmetics added as higher in attractiveness. However, only women rated faces with cosmetics as higher in dominance, while only men rated them as higher in prestige. In a follow-up study, we investigated whether these enhanced perceptions of dominance from women were caused by jealousy. We found that women experience more jealousy toward women with cosmetics, and view these women as more attractive to men and more promiscuous. Our findings suggest that cosmetics may function as an extended phenotype and can alter other’s perceptions differently depending on the perceiver’s sex.

Journal abstract