Is the 'Lipstick Effect' Rooted in Evolutionary Psychology?

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"We believe that these findings are related to universal female tendencies rather than specific cultural tendencies," he said. "While experiencing resource scarcity in the middle of Africa might not lead women to seek lipstick, such conditions may lead women to enhance their appearance in culturally appropriate ways. Although more future research is needed, this work is grounded in theory about universal human nature rather than cultural stereotypes."

Ann Mari May, economics professor at the Univeisity of Nebraska in Lincoln, said previous research has also shown men to care about their looks in stressful economic conditions, which found, for example, that sales of men's hair dye increased during the Great Depression.

Griskevicius said his group did not find that economic recessions or unemployment led men to enhance their physical appearance.

"Although this is certainly plausible, I would speculate that economic downturns would lead men to seek higher-status and more prestigious products," he said. "Rather than wanting to be beautiful, men in tough times might seek to appear wealthier."

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