Aesthetic Surgery: How It Affects the Way Patients Are Perceived by Others

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Writings on the psychological effects of aesthetic surgery have evidenced a subtle but important difference of opinion. One viewpoint emphasizes the intrapsychic significance of surgery, while another places great weight on the surgical patient's social feedback from peers. This research was designed to determine whether aesthetic surgery, by altering a patient's appearance, can change the social perceptions and dispositions of those who encounter the patient. A controlled experiment was carried out in which subjects viewed preoperative or postoperative photographs and made a variety of judgments of those pictured. The individuals in the postoperative pictures were judged to have more desirable personalities, to be better potential marriage partners, and to have happier lives than the same individuals photographed before surgery. Since all the impressions were from photographs, actual personality was not a factor in this study. The greatly improved social reception given the individuals in the postoperative pictures is explained by the surgical improvement in their appearance. Thus, the surgeon's work should be viewed as altering not only the patient, but also the patient's social world.

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