Race, Ethnicity, and Acculturation: How Racially Matched Images Influence Subsequent Perceptions of Beauty
50 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2014 Last revised: 11 Feb 2014
Date Written: January 16, 2014
Images of stereotypical Western beauty are seemingly everywhere, and yet how they’re perceived by consumers in a multi-cultural environment is not well understood. The authors propose that perceptions of facial beauty largely depend on the interaction between both the race of the consumer and the stimulus (viewer-source similarity). This is driven by an unconscious biological preference. We show that the impact of racial matching on beauty perceptions is enhanced by the strength of the subject’s ethnic identity and attenuated when the subject is more attuned to the prevailing national culture. However, the attenuation effect of acculturation is weaker than that enhancing effect of ethnic identity. The authors argue that this phenomenon occurs because ethnic identity is inherited and plays a biological role, while acculturation is socially embraced. To further elucidate this, the authors employ social identity theory which allows for simultaneous and independent ethnic and national identities. The authors test these effects through the development of a novel experiment which accounts for differences in inherent attractiveness of 60 stimuli. Furthermore, an instrument is created to capture individual (unobservable) differences in beauty perceptions that are not ethnically or racially driven.
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