Researchers from Australia asked 300 volunteers to play in a role-playing game where they had to pick an outfit for their debut into a hypothetical society, and they report that they found that women in economically unequal societies used their looks in an effort to get ahead in life, typically by choosing a more revealing outfit.
The team reports that this choice was motivated by anxieties over socioeconomic status.
Khandis Blake is a psychologist at the University of Melbourne, and together with colleagues, they conducted an experiment with 300 people from 38 countries. Each participant pretended to belong in one of a number of imaginary societies, and each one was designed to correspond to an economy in the real world.
The volunteers were asked to indicate how anxious they felt about their social status in their assigned society and then they were asked to pick an outfit for their first night out, with options ranging from conservative to more revealing.
What the team found was that women assigned to economically unequal societies typically chose more revealing outfits, and they did so because they were anxious about their social and economic standing.
The researchers concluded that income inequality urges women to deploy their attractiveness as a tool in order to get ahead.
Dr. Blake reported that even though people like to pretend that beauty doesn’t matter anymore, research and day-to-day experiences say otherwise. He noted that their results favor a view of women as strategic agents who use the tools available to them to climb the social hierarchy in specific socio-economic environments.
The researchers warned that as global income inequality continues to grow, so will women’s ‘preoccupation’ with their physical appearances, and it’s a trend that will also see a rise in related mental health issues.
The study authors also noted that even though beauty can be used to “out-do” others, it’s very important to remember that beauty has a shelf-life and obsessing over your appearance comes with other risks and challenges.
You can find the full findings of the study here, and feel free to discuss this matter in the comments.