Journal article review
Does hunger influence judgements of female physical attractiveness?
The article I have chosen to study is ‘Does hunger influence judgements of female physical attractiveness?’ by Viren Swami and Martin J. Tove´e (2005a.)
The introduction shows us that the authors constructed their research from a previous study by Nelson and Morrison (2005), which proposed that hunger and satiety influenced an individual’s attractiveness preference. Swami and Tove’e (2005a) replicated this research using an alternative variable: photographic stimuli of women.
Other beliefs that helped to frame their research were from ethnographers who suggested a cultural difference in attitudes towards the idealistic body shape and obesity. Many other researchers found a positive correlation between body fat and physical attractiveness in areas surrounding the South Pacific (Wilkinson, Ben-Tovin, & Walker, 1994). This is understood to be due to body fat being an implicit cue of resource abundance. Swami and Tove’e’s cross-cultural research was completed within Britain and Japan which I believe was a good sample as both have opposing cultures, with Japan being collectivist and Britain being individualist.
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The research was carried out in an attempt to test the validity of Nelson and Morrison’s (2005) findings. The author’s study looked to improve upon the previous research through; using photographic stimuli of real women, using the same methodology and analysis as previous studies in order to be able to cross-compare, and by using photographic stimuli in terms of BMI (body mass index) as opposed to overall body weight.
The authors used 50 black and white photographic images of real women; however, to maintain confidentiality and to reduce the influence of facial attractiveness, the faces were obscured. Similarly, the ethnicity, wealth and age of the photographs were not visible. The photographic stimuli was standardised to increase the validity and all images were 3-dimensional as opposed to the 2-dimensional line drawings of the previous research. I feel this improvement is significant as the 3rd dimension allows a whole new perspective of body shape.
The authors stated several methodological limitations which were tackled within the discussion, these were; the method used to familiarise participants with the photographic stimuli, by asking them to specify the photographs they thought were pregnant, may have influenced the attractiveness judgement, however this flaw can be seen as reasonable as all participants undertook the same conditions. Another limitation of the methodology is the reliance on the participant’s self evaluation of their hunger or satiety. Problems such as an unsatisfying meal may have influenced their attractiveness judgements.
The participants of the study were male university students who were asked to take part in the study upon entering or leaving the university dining room. This information along with the procedures of the experiment have been clearly stated within the journal by the authors and thus with the aid of the same sample and equipment, I would easily be able to replicate the research.
The methodology follows on from the aims and procedures through highlighting other research of similar topics and importance to the study. One piece of research cited is another study of the authors, this time researching the socio-economic status and cross cultural differences of the influence of hunger on physical attractiveness judgements. There are many more cited research theories and findings as Swami, Knight et al. (2006) found that judgements of the attractiveness of body weight can be adapted as observed when individuals from rural societies moved to urban societies, their preference was increasingly influenced towards slimmer figures.
The results within the journal article firstly indicate the use of an intra class reliability measure in order to make sure of similar rating across the two condition groups. The main findings of the experiment are clearly represented and it is easy to gather that BMI accounts for over 70% of attractiveness ratings, 74.2% for hungry participants and 75.8% for satiated participants. The authors also state that these results are consistent with previous research.
The discussion’s conclusion is partly based on the findings from the results section however it is mainly cited theories and previous research and their links to the authors own findings and what has been cited within the introduction. For example, the author’s replicate of the work of Nelson and Morrison (2005) is shown to have corroborating findings. More previous research is mentioned within the discussion such as Pettijohn and Jungeberg, (2004) who found that physical preferences varied accordingly with historical economic conditions.
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An alternative explanation is offered within the discussion as the authors highlight that the findings only showed a slight difference in preference between the hungry and satiated men and that the optimum BMI was around the ‘normal’ range for both participant conditions. However, an explanation for this is offered as they suggest that neither wealth nor hunger is the deciding factor in the influence on judgement, but it is in fact due to the implicit cues of resource abundance.
Another problem this study may have come across is that our hunger state is non-influential as we are in fact already psychologically programmed with what we think is physically attractive through our social surroundings such as the influence of friends family and in particular, the media. This limitation is touched upon within the discussion as research by Kim and Markus, (1999) suggested that cultural values are internalized and these values then form our own individual preferences.
The authors do not suggest any further research to be carried out however they do cite their own work in progress (Swami, Tove’e et al., in press) , which continues research into judgements of female body weight, however this time with more a focus towards socio-economic status.
Towards the end of the discussion, the authors briefly suggest an idea for a further improvement for another study on the same topic. They suggest that in order to reduce the limitation of an unsatisfying meal, and thus a non satiated participant, a stricter approach must be taken in which participants are perhaps given certain amounts of food within a laboratory condition to control levels of satiety. I feel that to improve the external validity of the experiment, a new sample of varying participants should be used in further research. For example, women could be introduced into the participant sample and non university students could be used as this potentially limits age ranges and socio-economic status.
The investigation is an interesting contribution to psychology as firstly, it contributes to the previous research which it intended to replicate. The results of the study reflect that of the previous study and thus both sets of results are deemed more useful and validity is increased. Secondly, this research is unique as no other studies on judgements of physical attractiveness have been done using a sample of male university students using the same experimental conditions as the study.
My personal reactions to the study are that it was performed in a professional manner and has clear and significant results. The results section of the task could perhaps have used varying methods of statistic representation and the discussion could perhaps have included more ideas for further research. Finally, due to the confidentiality of the photographed women and the male participants, I feel the study was ethical in nature.
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