You’re OK Until You Misbehave: How Norm Violations Magnify the Attractiveness Devil Effect

Abstract

Physical attractiveness has been known to act as a cue in determining perceptions of other individuals. Possession of a positive characteristic, such as attractiveness, results in a positive cognitive bias towards the individual. Similarly, possession of a negative characteristic, such as unattractiveness, results in the opposite effect. In addition to unattractiveness, the violation of social norms has been known to act as a cue for this negative bias. This experiment sought to examine how male facial attractiveness interacted with norm violation to alter females’ perceptions of males. Two male faces (attractive and unattractive) bearing similar features were paired with two scenarios of norm violation (high violation and low violation) while being rated on perceived personality characteristics. It was expected that halo/devil effects would occur based on facial attractiveness, and that norm violation would produce a devil effect in the men. An interaction effect between the two was also expected. Participants were 170 female college students. Results were analyzed using a repeated ANOVA and independent t tests. Findings show that a “double” devil effect occurred with the unattractive high violation condition. Norm violation also presented significant results, while facial attractiveness alone did not. Findings pose implications for online dating and jury deliberations.

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Correspondence to Jeremy L. Gibson.

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Gibson, J.L., Gore, J.S. You’re OK Until You Misbehave: How Norm Violations Magnify the Attractiveness Devil Effect. Gend. Issues 32, 266–278 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12147-015-9142-5

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Keywords

  • Face perception
  • Physical attractiveness
  • Norm violation
  • Devil effect
  • Halo effect