women spend more on 'beauty enhancement products' during recessions
When the going gets tough, the tough put on make-up.
1200 WOAI news reprots research done in Texas, Minnesota, and Arizona has scientifically proven what has been called the 'lipstick effect,' the notion that women spend more money on 'attractiveness-enhancing products' during times of economic recession.
Psychology Professor Sarah Hill of Texas Christian University says the 'lipstick effect' is borne out by evolutionary biology.
"Across species, the strength of female mate preferences and the amount of effort allocated toward attracting specific males decreases when high quality males are abundant," she told 1200 WOAI news from Ft. Worth on Tuesday.
The problem is, according to the research, which is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, that during tough economic times, high quality males are far less abundant.
"Recessions are associated with higher unemployment and minimal or negative returns on savings and investment," she said. A recession may signal that financially stable men are becoming scarce. Given that the number of people who have financial security declines in a recession, women, whose reproductive success has been critically dependent on a mate's recourse access, should increase the effort they invest in attracting a mate who has resources."
She cited similar research done in cultures as disparate as Ecuador and Japan, which supports the connection between 'attractiveness enhancement' and a recession, and points out cosmetics sales have increased during recessions dating back to 1992.
"People have talked about this idea of a lipstick effect for years, and on the surface it appears to have this idea that women are being frivolous," she said. "This is actually a very functional shift in women's mating psychology which is deeply rooted in women's search for mates with resources."
In the study, researchers had 154 university students come into a lab and, on the presumption that they were participating in research on reading comprehension, had them read two phony news articles. One was a fictitious New York Times story about 'the growing harshness in world economic markets,' and the control group read an article on architecture.
Hill says women who read the article predicting tough economic times were more likely to say in a survey that they were more likely to buy 'attractiveness enhancing products' like lipstick and a sexy dress than women who read the control article.
She says, interestingly, the answers given by the men who participated in the survey showed no difference in the types of products they wanted to purchase, but the men who read about hard economic times were less likely to want to purchase both gender-appropriate 'attractiveness enhancing products,' and products from the control group, which included headphones and a wireless computer mouse. She says that too enhances the 'lipstick effect,' indicating that men will be less open to all types of spending during tough economic times, including spending on items which would make them more attractive to women.
The researchers say women who are facing economic hard times are also more likely to purchase 'attractiveness enhancing products' than other 'inexpensive indulgences' like coffee.
Hill says the behavior of women cuts across the financial status of the women and the men, and is even seen in wealthy and professionally successful women interacting with less wealthy men. She rejected suggestions that her research could be considered 'sexist' and portraying women as 'gold diggers.'
"Women have a heightened preference for resource access across levels of economic status," she said. "Women who do have resources and women who don't have status both show this trait. This is something that subconsciously occurs due to our evolved mating psychology."