Evidence for the Lipstick Effect at the Level of Automatic Visual Attention

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Previous research has demonstrated that women concerned with economic recessions (i.e., resource scarcity) display an increased explicit preference to purchase products capable of enhancing physical beauty (the lipstick effect). Such preference shifts are hypothesized to be the manifestation of a female mating adaptation to increase attractiveness to potential male partners, thereby increasing access to high quality male mates (i.e., those with resources to invest in potential offspring). The current study tested whether the lipstick effect operates at the level of automaticity (i.e., automatic visual attention). Female participants were randomly assigned to a recession prime (an article about a recent recession) or a control prime condition (an article about architecture). Participants then completed a reaction time (RT) task (i.e., dot-probe task) that assessed automatic attentional bias toward beauty and nonbeauty products. The results demonstrated that women in the recession prime condition demonstrated a stronger automatic visual attentional bias for beauty relative to control products; control prime participants displayed a marginally stronger automatic attentional bias for control products. These findings provide additional evidence that the lipstick effect may be a female adaptation by demonstrating its operation at the level of automatic visual attention.

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