Jones, A. L., & Kramer, R. S. S. (2016). Facial cosmetics and attractiveness: Comparing the effect sizes of professionally-applied cosmetics and identity. PLoS ONE, 11(10), e0164218.

Forms of body decoration exist in all human cultures. However, in Western societies, women are more likely to engage in appearance modification, especially through the use of facial cosmetics. How effective are cosmetics at altering attractiveness? Previous research has hinted that the effect is not large, especially when compared to the variation in attractiveness observed between individuals due to differences in identity. In order to build a fuller understanding of how cosmetics and identity affect attractiveness, here we examine how professionally-applied cosmetics alter attractiveness and compare this effect with the variation in attractiveness observed between individuals. In Study 1, 33 YouTube models were rated for attractiveness before and after the application of professionally-applied cosmetics. Cosmetics explained a larger proportion of the variation in attractiveness compared with previous studies, but this effect remained smaller than variation caused by differences in attractiveness between individuals. Study 2 replicated the results of the first study with a sample of 45 supermodels, with the aim of examining the effect of cosmetics in a sample of faces with low variation in attractiveness between individuals. While the effect size of cosmetics was generally large, between-person variability due to identity remained larger. Both studies also found interactions between cosmetics and identity–more attractive models received smaller increases when cosmetics were worn. Overall, we show that professionally-applied cosmetics produce a larger effect than self-applied cosmetics, an important theoretical consideration for the field. However, the effect of individual differences in facial appearance is ultimately more important in perceptions of attractiveness.

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Cornelissen, K. K., Gledhill, L., Cornelissen, P. L., & Tovée, M. J. (2016). Visual biases in judging body weight. British Journal of Health Psychology, 21, 555-569.

There has been a steady rise in obesity levels in Western countries, and a contributory factor is people’s failure to recognize weight gain. Two important visual perceptual biases, contraction bias and Weber’s law, that have hitherto been ignored in the obesity literature could contribute to this problem. Contraction bias predicts that the weight of obese bodies will be underestimated and the degree of underestimation will increase as body mass index (BMI) increases. Weber’s law predicts that change in the body size will become progressively harder to detect as their BMI increases.

In Experiment 1, 29 women participants estimated the weight of 120 women varying in their body mass. In Experiment 2, 28 women participants judged which body was the heavier in a 2-alternative forced choice paradigm.

In Experiment 1, as predicted the participants showed a progressive underestimation of overweight and obese bodies, β1 = 0.71, t = 26.96, p < .0001. For Experiment 2, there was a significant effect of the BMI of the bodies being judged on the just noticeable difference needed to discriminate between them: F(1, 196) = 89.39, p < .0001 for 3D bodies and F(1, 86.5) = 44.57, p < .0001 for digital photographs. CONCLUSIONS:
Normal visual perceptual biases influence our ability to determine body size: contraction bias and Weber’s law mean that as bodies become overweight and obese, it is harder to judge their weight and detect any increase in size. These effects may therefore compromise people’s ability to recognize weight gain and undertake compensatory weight control behaviours. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? It is common knowledge that obesity levels in the West are rapidly rising and that people fail to recognize weight gain. What has not been widely recognized before is that there are sound perceptual reasons for this failure. Here, we identify two such perceptual biases. What does this study add? Weber’s law and contraction bias compromise people’s ability to recognize weight gain. It becomes progressively harder to discriminate the size of bodies as their body mass index increases. This compromises the ability to recognize weight gain and undertake compensatory behaviours.

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Cornelissen, K. K., Cornelissen, P. L., Hancock, P. J. B., & Tovée, M. J. (2016). Fixation patterns, not clinical diagnosis, predict body size over-estimation in eating disordered women and healthy controls. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49, 507-518.

A core feature of anorexia nervosa (AN) is an over‐estimation of body size. Women with AN have a different pattern of eye‐movements when judging bodies, but it is unclear whether this is specific to their diagnosis or whether it is found in anyone over‐estimating body size.

To address this question, we compared the eye movement patterns from three participant groups while they carried out a body size estimation task: (i) 20 women with recovering/recovered anorexia (rAN) who had concerns about body shape and weight and who over‐estimated body size, (ii) 20 healthy controls who had normative levels of concern about body shape and who estimated body size accurately (iii) 20 healthy controls who had normative levels of concern about body shape but who did over‐estimate body size.

Comparisons between the three groups showed that: (i) accurate body size estimators tended to look more in the waist region, and this was independent of clinical diagnosis; (ii) there is a pattern of looking at images of bodies, particularly viewing the upper parts of the torso and face, which is specific to participants with rAN but which is independent of accuracy in body size estimation.

Since the over‐estimating controls did not share the same body image concerns that women with rAN report, their over‐estimation cannot be explained by attitudinal concerns about body shape and weight. These results suggest that a distributed fixation pattern is associated with over‐estimation of body size and should be addressed in treatment programs.

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Burton, A. M., Kramer, R. S. S., Ritchie, K. L., & Jenkins, R. (2016). Identity from variation: Representations of faces derived from multiple instances. Cognitive Science, 40, 202-233.

Research in face recognition has tended to focus on discriminating between individuals, or “telling people apart.” It has recently become clear that it is also necessary to understand how images of the same person can vary, or “telling people together.” Learning a new face, and tracking its representation as it changes from unfamiliar to familiar, involves an abstraction of the variability in different images of that person’s face. Here, we present an application of principal components analysis computed across different photos of the same person. We demonstrate that people vary in systematic ways, and that this variability is idiosyncratic-the dimensions of variability in one face do not generalize well to another. Learning a new face therefore entails learning how that face varies. We present evidence for this proposal and suggest that it provides an explanation for various effects in face recognition. We conclude by making a number of testable predictions derived from this framework.

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Boothroyd, L. G., Jucker, J-L., Thornborrow, T., Jamieson, M. A., Burt, A. M., Barton, R. A., Evans, E. H., & Tovée, M. J. (2016). Television exposure predicts body size ideals in rural Nicaragua. British Journal of Psychology, 107, 752-767.

Internalization of a thin ideal has been posited as a key risk factor in the development of pathological eating attitudes. Cross-culturally, studies have found a preference for heavier bodies in populations with reduced access to visual media compared to Western populations. As yet, however, there has been little attempt to control for confounding variables in order to isolate the effects of media exposure from other cultural and ecological factors. Here, we examined preferences for female body size in relation to television consumption in Nicaraguan men and women, while controlling for the potential confounding effects of other aspects of Westernization and hunger. We included an urban sample, a sample from a village with established television access, and a sample from a nearby village with very limited television access. The highest BMI preferences were found in the village with least media access, while the lowest BMI preferences were found in the urban sample. Data from the rural sample with established television access were intermediate between the two. Amongst rural women in particular, greater television consumption was a stronger predictor of body weight preferences than acculturation, education, hunger, or income. We also found some evidence for television consumption increasing the likelihood of women seeking to lose weight, possibly via body shape preferences. Overall, these results strongly implicate television access in establishing risk factors for body image disturbances in populations newly gaining access to Western media.

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Alsharfi, M., Pfeffer, K. & Miller, K. A. (2016). The effects of polygamy on children and adolescents: a systematic review. Journal of Family Studies, 22(3), 272-286.

The objective was to review research that examined the effects of polygyny (a specific form of polygamy) on children and adolescents. A systematic literature search and review was conducted of research published 1994–2014 that focused on psychological variables, primary data collection, and compared data on children and adolescents from polygynous families with monogamous families. Critical analysis included the relevance of methods to the culture, including the psychometric properties reported. A total of 13 papers satisfied the inclusion criteria. The review found more mental health problems, social problems and lower academic achievement for children and adolescents from polygynous than monogamous families. Similarities between children and adolescents from polygynous and monogamous families included self-esteem, anxiety and depression scores. Although polygynous family structures appear to have detrimental effects on children and adolescents, the mediating effects of parental education, economy and family functioning need to be investigated.

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Albuquerque, N., Guo, K., Wilkinson, A., Savalli, C., Otta, E., & Mills, D. (2016). Dogs recognize dog and human emotions. Biology Letters, 12, 20150883.

The perception of emotional expressions allows animals to evaluate the social intentions and motivations of each other. This usually takes place within species; however, in the case of domestic dogs, it might be advantageous to recognize the emotions of humans as well as other dogs. In this sense, the combination of visual and auditory cues to categorize others’ emotions facilitates the information processing and indicates high-level cognitive representations. Using a cross-modal preferential looking paradigm, we presented dogs with either human or dog faces with different emotional valences (happy/playful versus angry/aggressive) paired with a single vocalization from the same individual with either a positive or negative valence or Brownian noise. Dogs looked significantly longer at the face whose expression was congruent to the valence of vocalization, for both conspecifics and heterospecifics, an ability previously known only in humans. These results demonstrate that dogs can extract and integrate bimodal sensory emotional information, and discriminate between positive and negative emotions from both humans and dogs.

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