Is There A Difference? Societies Definition of Beauty vs. Miami University Students

This topic submitted by Melissa, Ali, Jenny, and Joey ( at 4:47 pm on 10/22/99. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Cummins

Is there a difference? Society's definition of beauty vs.
Miami University students.

This topic submitted by Ali, Joey, Jenny, and Melissa ( at 11:58 pm on 9/30/99. Additions were last
made on 10/14/99. Section: Cummins

1. Introduction

In our society today, there is a lot of emphasis placed on physical appearance. There have been numerous studies done regarding beauty. One example is a study done on women's hair color, "The American Image of Beauty: Media Representations of Hair Color for Four Decades," by Melissa K. Rich and Thomas F. Cash.

An important aspect of physical beauty is hair color. Hair is valuable simply because it is an element of the body which can be altered readily by changing its style, color, and length. "In Western Caucasian society, there seems to be a popular image of beautiful women as having a fair complexion, light eye color, and light hair color, in contrast to an ideal image of men as having darker features (Feinman and Gill, 1978)." Clayson and Klassen (1989) found that college students consider redheads as least attractive and blondes most attractive. The purpose of the present study is to examine how beauty is depicted in our society with respect to hair color. Hypothesis: during a forty-year period, the proportions of blondes in the magazines were predicted to surpass the base rate of natural blondes in the norm group.

Two women's magazines, Ladies Home Journal and Vogue, were considered to offer contemporary beauty depictions and would be considered as the "norm" for this experiment. Playboy magazine was chosen to incorporate images that were directed to the mail audience. Pictures within the magazines were used if the model was an adult Caucasian female with distinguishable hair color. Unratable data was considered the following: no model shown, children, men, non-Caucasians, multiple women, or hair fully covered.

There were a total of 750 ratable hair color observations: 325 Ladies Home Journal, 227 Vogue and 198 Playboy. The base rates of the norm sample were 68.1 percent brunettes, 26.8 percent blondes, and 5.1 percent redheads.

The depiction of women's beauty in society in regard to women's hair color is an important piece of physical appearance. This experiment focused on the representation of blondes and other hair colors in print media, and in comparison a normative hair colors base rate. The percentage of blondes in each magazine exceeded the 26.8 percent base rate of blondes in the white female sample. This image delivers a message to society that blonde is a prominent ideal of feminine beauty.

Our group considered this study a model for our project, Is There A Difference? Society's Definition of Beauty Compared to Miami University Students. The main difference between our study and the above study is that we will focus on the face, not just one feature like hair, which they used. We did gain some useful insights by the within the study by Melissa K. Rich and Thomas F. Cash. The following quote comes from M.R. Cunningham, "Measuring the physical in physical attractiveness: Quasi-experiments on the sociobiology of female facial beauty": "Cunningham investigated males' ratings of females' facial features and found that attractiveness ratings were positively correlated with neonatal features such as large eyes, a small nose, a small chin, and more mature features of prominent cheekbones, narrow cheeks, large pupils, a large smile, and expressive features. We found traits such as large eyes, small chin, and narrow cheeks surprising and would like to see if they show up in our results. Overall, the study done by the two authors may be used as a model for comparisons of final results.


In our society today, a huge emphasis is placed on physical appearance. Advertisements don't try to get you to buy a product so that you will be a better person; they sell products because you can be beautiful if you own them. Not to mention all the advertisements for products that make you beautiful. Newscasters and reporters are all beautiful. Magazines are the epitome of glorifying beauty.

While flipping through the pages of Cosmopolitan, for example, we saw an advertisement promoting a new three-in-one concealor. It glides on smooth, dots on to conceal, and finishes powder-light. This is demonstrated by a face, which has no acne, beautiful, lengthy eyelashes, thin, perfectly colored lips, and finely plucked eyebrows. We question, "Is this the face we are supposed to strive for?" "Is this what is considered beautiful?"

Our research group would like to compare society's definition of what is physically beautiful to that of Miami University students definition.
Is there a difference? Can we consider the requirement of being beautiful a true one in order to get somewhere in life?


Our group believes that the students at Miami University will define beauty much like society does, possibly a slender figure for the female
and muscular for the male, clear complexion, and deep eyes. Although, in the long run we believe people settle for the whole character,
especially when seeking a husband.

With this, we plan to accomplish either a truth or a lie, one that may be hurtful in the end. Here are a few questions we would like to be
able to answer after reviewing the data: In meeting someone do you solely decide to go on a date with them because of their appearance,
or is it because they posses nice qualities? What visible qualities of a person to people most concentrate on? Can we consider the
requirement of being beautiful a true one in order to get somewhere in life?

Our group is interested because personally each of us wants to know how we fit in. Are we considered beautiful and who is to say? One
other accomplishment we hope achieve is a shield against what other people think based on outer appearance. By portraying to the class
how big of a factor outer beauty is and the negative aspect of that, people may change their judgements or roundabout way of selecting a
partner. After all, who wants to be so close minded?

2. Relevance of your research question

Recently, all the freshman students in Creativity and Culture just finished reading a book titled Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy.
Lucy tells her life story from the time she acquired a malignancy on her jaw, to the time she came to terms with her face never being the
same again. Half of her jaw was removed at an early age due to the cancer. With such an unusual shape of the face she comes across
social problems each and every day, one being the fact that no man will ever desire or feel attracted to her. Lucy Grealy quotes: "Beauty,
as defined by society at large, seemed to be only about who was best at looking like everyone else." And so we see it as Lucy Grealy
does: beauty matters.

3. Materials and Methods

We must first investigate different sources that portray societies perception of outer beauty. Magazines, the evening news, covers on
CD's, and the appearance of the musician and stars of the movies should help us define societies perception of beauty. Our group will
study this media and then come to a conclusion. A survey will be distributed to approximately 100 Western Campus students and 100
Main Campus students. We will distribute one survey to all students male and female. It will inquire what a woman defines as a beautiful
woman, and what a man defines as a handsome man. The materials we will use to define societies perception of beauty will be the ones
which simply are distributed and viewed by society the most- magazines, movies, the evening news, and catalogs.

Here is a copy of our survey:

What is Beauty?
NS Project Survey

1. Are you Male-___ /Female___?

Imagine you are at Walmart buying a poster for the wall next to your bed. You can't find any famous actors (actresses) or models, but there are a large variety of posters with people's faces on them. What kind of features do you look for?

Check one feature in each category:

Section 1: Color

Black-___ Blonde___
Dark Brown---___ Red___

Section 2: Length

Chin length or shorter___
Chin length to shoulder length___
Shoulder length or longer-___

Section 1: Size/Shape

Big___ -- Deep set___
Small___ Close set___

Section 2: Color

Dark Brown (Black)-___ Blue___
Green___ Grey___

EYEBROWS: Type/Shape

Rounded___ Semi-thick___
Thin___ Thick___

NOSE: Type/Size

Big___ Broad___
Small___ Ski-Jump___
Pointed___ Button___

LIPS: Type/Size

Full___ Big___
Thin___ Small___


Straight___ Doesn't matter___

SKIN: Tone
Section 1: Tone

Pale___ Freckled___

Section 2: Race/Ethnicity

Dark___ Light___

Section 3: Texture (check all that apply)

Beard___ Soul Patch___
Goatee___ Stubble___
Side Burns___ Clean-shaven___

2. Which gender are you intimately attracted to: male___ female___
Using three or four sentences, describe your ideal mate physically.
(Avoid using words such as nice, pretty and good. Note that your description does not have to match the ideal poster)

3. While considering a life long partner/mate, do you conform to the guidelines you delineated above (your ideal physical mate).

4. What is your major? ___________________________

5. Are you greek___ non-greek___


4. Results (not yet accessible)

5. Data and Conclusions

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