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Daniela Mier, Eiko Shimojo, Shinsuke Shimojo; Visual attractiveness is leaky (4): Effects of non-social stimuli and the relationship to distance and timing. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):632. doi: 10.1167/11.11.632.
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If you go to a car show, cars are presented by beautiful women. It has been known that positive social stimuli seem to affect attractiveness perception of non-social stimuli. Moreover, such a leakage of attractiveness can be against the observer's intention (VSS'10 (1) and (2), VSS'11 (3)). However, will standing by a gorgeous sports car make them appear even more attractive? The first purpose of the current study was to explore whether only the perceived attractiveness of non-social stimuli can be influenced by social stimuli, or rather the effect can be the other way around, too. The second purpose was to explore whether this assumed leakage of attractiveness can be modulated by a) the distance and b) the timing of the surroundings in relation to the target object. We used three types of stimulus configurations 1) A center geometrical figure (GF) surrounded by four faces (FCs), 2) a center FC surrounded by four GFs and 3) a center FC surrounded by four FCs. In each of these set-ups, we manipulated the relative baseline attractiveness between the surrounding and the central objects, and either the timing (simultaneously, or surroundings first by 2 sec.), or the distance (close or far). The task was to evaluate the attractiveness of the central object, while neglecting the surroundings. We found a significant influence on the attractiveness-ratings of faces by non-social, as well as social stimuli. Thus, the claim that attractiveness is leaky does not only hold for an influence of social stimuli, but also of non-social stimuli. In addition, we found that the influence is significantly stronger when the surroundings are in close spatial proximity to the target. The results for the timing revealed a tendency for the influence to be stronger when the surroundings are presented first.
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