Carried out by researchers from Harvard Medical School, USA, and the University of Chieti, Italy, the team looked into the “lipstick effect” among 186 female undergraduate students. The “lipstick effect” is a known psychological phenomenon in which wearing makeup can give individuals a confidence boost by making them feel physically attractive, increasing the feeling of self-esteem, attitude, and personality.
However, a less well-known effect is that a boost in self-esteem can also boost cognitive abilities. As previous research has shown, positive emotions can improve academic performance. The new study set out to see if the positive boost in self-esteem from wearing makeup could have the same effect.
Female undergraduates were placed into different groups and given a series of tests to complete, which consisted of answering multiple choice questions about a chapter from a general psychology textbook. Before taking the test, members of one group were asked to apply makeup, another group listened to “a positive music excerpt,” and a third coloured a drawing of a human face. The team believed that those wearing makeup would experience the greatest boost in positive feelings, and therefore would perform better in the tests than the other two groups.
The results showed that although there was a significant increase in cognitive performance from the group who listened to positive music, as predicted it was those in the makeup group who performed significantly better than females in the other two groups. The team pointed out that although makeup wasn’t the only way of boosting test results, the findings do offer new understanding into the ways in which boosting physical self-esteem through using makeup may interact with cognition.
They now suggest further research to look into whether makeup has longer lasting effects on cognitive performance. The findings can be found published online in the journal Cogent Psychology.