Thursday, June 6, 2019

A man with an unattractive wife is perceived to be more moral because the couple shares a stronger & more communal relationship

Forming Judgments Based on Spouse’s Attractiveness. Nivriti Chowdhry, Ajay Kalra. European Association for Consumer Research Conference Proceedings, Volume 11, 2018.

Excerpts of the extended abstract:

This research investigates the effect of spouse attractiveness on the perceived morality of a focal person and the credibility of their firm. Five studies demonstrate that a man with an unattractive wife is perceived to be more moral because the couple shares a stronger and more communal relationship.The spouses and romantic partners of CEOs, politicians, and celebrities are often in the public eye themselves. For example, Melinda Gates, Priscilla Chan, and Miranda Kerr are as well-known as their spouses. Additionally, several service providers and retailers (e.g., financial advisors, contractors, automobile dealers) routinely feature their spouses in their professional profiles and commercial messages. How does the beauty of the spouse impact perceptions of the focal person?The person perception literature concludes that, in general, beautiful people reap more benefits from society than unattractive people (Dion, Berscheid, and Walster 1972, Langlois et al. 2000, Mobius and Rosenblat 2006). This research focuses on the effects of a person’s own beauty, not the beauty of people associated with a target person. In contrast, we demonstrate that judgments about a fo-cal person’s traits can be based on the attractiveness of their spouse, and explicate why an associated person’s physical attractiveness can be detrimental to perceptions of a focal person. In particular, using entitativity theory and social exchange theory, we explain how the physical appearance of an associated person can signal information about a target person’s morality, one of the more important dimension in marketing and consumer behavior.

Entitativity is defined as the cohesiveness and unity of a social group, such as a sports team, work group, or family (Campbell 1958; McConnell et al. 1997). When gauging the entitativity of a group, judges may consider fixed characteristics or dynamic processes un-derlying the relationship (Wai-man Ip, Chiu, and Wan 2006). Fixed characteristics are immediately observable physical features and signal psychological similarity. Dynamic processes underlying the relationship include the behavior and movement patterns of a group and signal common goals and attitudes of the group members (Wai-man Ip et al. 2006).

Social exchange theory (Blau 1964) posits that married couples exchange physical attractiveness, social status, and wealth. Of these, physical attractiveness is the only immediately observable fixed characteristic that entitativity judgments about a married couple can be based on. There are three different combinations of a married cou-ple’s relative attractiveness: (a) a physically similar couple, in which both people are equally attractive, (b) when the wife is more attrac-tive than the husband, and (c) when the husband is more attractive than the wife. The first combination - two equally attractive people - is consistent with extant entitativity theory. When both individu-als in a relationship are similarly attractive, they indicate entitativity through fixed characteristics, and are likely perceived to be psycho-logically similar. The second pairing has been studied and concludes that men married to attractive women are perceived to exchange wealth or social status for physical attractiveness (Baumeister and Vohs 2004).

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