31 July 2019

SPOTLIGHT ON: Make-up study reveals leadership perceptions

SPOTLIGHT ON: Make-up study reveals leadership perceptions

A picture of a woman wearing make-up

Women wearing heavy make-up are less likely to be thought of as good leaders, according to research from Abertay University.

A study led by Dr Christopher Watkins of Abertay’s Division of Psychology revealed that the amount of make-up a woman is wearing can have a negative impact on perceptions of her leadership ability.

Study participants were asked to view a series of images featuring the same woman without cosmetics and with make-up applied for a “social night out”.

Computer software was used to manipulate the faces and the amount of make-up was also manipulated in the face images.

Each participant completed a face perception task where they judged sixteen face-pairs, indicating how much better a leader they felt their chosen face to be compared to the other face.

It was found that both men and women evaluated women more negatively as a leader if the image suggested she was wearing a lot of make-up.

Dr Watkins said: "This research follows previous work in this area which suggests that wearing make-up enhances how dominant a woman looks. 

"While the previous findings suggest that we are inclined to show some deference to a woman with a good looking face, our new research suggests that make-up does not enhance a woman's dominance by benefiting how we evaluate her in a leadership role. 

"This work is a good example of the diverse and interesting research we do within the Division of Psychology."

The study was carried out by Abertay graduates Esther James and Shauny Jenkins and used a measurement scale common in face perception research, which calculates the first-impressions of the participant group as a whole, working out an average verdict.

To view the full study click here. 

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