Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Data from 99 countries: More time was spent enhancing beauty by women (almost 4 h a day, on average) than by men (3.6 h a day), & by the youngest participants (and contrary to predictions, also the oldest)

Predictors of enhancing human physical attractiveness: Data from 93 countries. Marta Kowal et al. Evolution and Human Behavior, September 6 2022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2022.08.003

Abstract: People across the world and throughout history have gone to great lengths to enhance their physical appearance. Evolutionary psychologists and ethologists have largely attempted to explain this phenomenon via mating preferences and strategies. Here, we test one of the most popular evolutionary hypotheses for beauty-enhancing behaviors, drawn from mating market and parasite stress perspectives, in a large cross-cultural sample. We also test hypotheses drawn from other influential and non-mutually exclusive theoretical frameworks, from biosocial role theory to a cultural media perspective. Survey data from 93,158 human participants across 93 countries provide evidence that behaviors such as applying makeup or using other cosmetics, hair grooming, clothing style, caring for body hygiene, and exercising or following a specific diet for the specific purpose of improving ones physical attractiveness, are universal. Indeed, 99% of participants reported spending >10 min a day performing beauty-enhancing behaviors. The results largely support evolutionary hypotheses: more time was spent enhancing beauty by women (almost 4 h a day, on average) than by men (3.6 h a day), by the youngest participants (and contrary to predictions, also the oldest), by those with a relatively more severe history of infectious diseases, and by participants currently dating compared to those in established relationships. The strongest predictor of attractiveness-enhancing behaviors was social media usage. Other predictors, in order of effect size, included adhering to traditional gender roles, residing in countries with less gender equality, considering oneself as highly attractive or, conversely, highly unattractive, TV watching time, higher socioeconomic status, right-wing political beliefs, a lower level of education, and personal individualistic attitudes. This study provides novel insight into universal beauty-enhancing behaviors by unifying evolutionary theory with several other complimentary perspectives.

Keywords: Evolutionary theoryMating market perspectivePathogen stressAppearanceSelf-modificationSocial media usage

4. General discussion

Many scholars have called for a large-scale study on primarily non-Western samples to comprehensively examine predictors of activities aimed at improving physical attractiveness in humans (see, e.g., Bradshaw and DelPriore, 2021Davis and Arnocky, 2020Wagstaff, 2018). The present multi-national investigation addressed this core need by testing evolutionarily-driven hypotheses, alongside several other influential hypotheses regarding beauty-enhancing behaviors that have not been jointly and empirically verified in a large-scale global investigation.

4.1. Mating market perspective

We observed that globally, while both sexes spent approximately an average of 4 h a day on behaviors specifically aimed at improving their attractiveness, women reported spending an average of 23 more minutes a day enhancing their beauty than did men. The effect size of this gender difference was moderate compared to other predictors and in general, corroborates the results of previous studies (see, e.g., Biesterbos et al., 2013Corson, 1972Ficheux et al., 2016Gunn, 1973). For instance, cosmetics generally increase women's attractiveness as rated by themselves (Anchieta et al., 2021) and by others (e.g., Tagai, Ohtaka, and Nittono, 2016). Future studies are still needed to disentangle whether the main motive to increase one's attractiveness for women is to attract other mates, retain a current mate (Davis and Arnocky, 2020), increase one's social status (Bradshaw and DelPriore, 2021), or a combination of these and other factors.

Apart from cosmetics usage, we show that many other activities are undertaken across cultures to increase physical attractiveness (Davis and Arnocky, 2020). One such activity is physical exercise. Previous studies found that men exercise more than women do (Deaner and Smith, 2013Hsu and Valentova, 2020Mafra, Castro, and Lopes, 2016Sallis, Zakarian, Hovell, and Hofstetter, 1996), and that men's motivation to exercise, at least in part, stems from their desire to increase their attractiveness (Antonova and Merenkov, 2020). We observed the same pattern of results in our study. The mating market perspective provides a plausible explanation for this phenomenon: physical training increases male formidability and strength, which, in ancestral times, were related both directly and indirectly to ancestral males' and their partners' fitness (Sell et al., 2009von Rueden et al., 2008). Strength is often closely connected to men's bodily attractiveness (Lidborg, Cross, & Boothroyd, 2022Sell, Lukazsweski, and Townsley, 2017), as is muscularity (Frederick and Haselton, 2007). Fat-free muscle mass has been linked to having more sex partners (Lassek and Gaulin, 2009). However, when all types of activities aimed at increasing one's beauty were considered here, it was still women who spent more time daily enhancing their appearance compared to men, which confirms the first hypothesis.

The current study partly corroborated our second hypothesis. The results showed a U-shaped relationship between the intensity of beauty-enhancing behaviors and age, but only among women. This implies that middle-aged women spent the least amount of time improving their attractiveness (see Fig. 3). To put this into perspective, 18-year-old women spent 63 more minutes a day enhancing their appearance than did 44-year old women, whereas 60-year-old women spent 30 more minutes than did 44-year old women, on average. This effect size was large compared to other predictors. According to the mate preferences perspective, younger individuals of reproductive age should be more interested in attracting potential mates because their own reproductive potential is relatively high (Fitzgerald et al., 1998World Health Organization, 2006). Once reaching a certain age, an individual may realize the footprint of time on their face and body (e.g., wrinkles, graying hair, weight gain; Winterich, 2007). Ficheux et al. (2016) found that older French people used more cosmetics than their younger counterparts. Women aged 40 years or older who wear make-up appear younger than same-aged women who do not wear make-up (Russell et al., 2019), though this effect is not present among women aged 30 years or less. Notably, the perceived adverse effects of time on appearance are often more severe in the case of women than men (Gerbner, Gross, Signorielli, and Morgan, 1980Lauzen and Dozier, 2005), which is in line with the results of the present study, as age was unrelated to time spent enhancing attractiveness by men.

Surprisingly, we found evidence against the third hypothesis: being in a relationship was linked to more, not less, intense beauty-enhancing behaviors. However, after a closer inspection, we observed that dating individuals spent more time improving their appearance than did single people (on average 24 min more a day), married people (26 min more), and individuals in committed relationships (29 min more). This result is especially interesting, as it may explain the inconsistent findings of past research (see, e.g., Fisher et al., 2009Mafra et al., 2020Miguel and Buss, 2011Perilloux and Buss, 2008). The mating market perspective surmises that individuals who are not pair-bonded are highly interested in finding a potential mate (Buss, 2015). Hence, dating individuals may fall into this category, as they are actively pursuing a potential partner. Conversely, individuals in committed relationships including marriage are already pair-bonded, and thus, are typically less interested in finding a new mate. At the same time, single individuals may opt not to pursue a mate and conscientiously decline using any strategies (including self-modification) to acquire one. The present results do question previous hypotheses on improving one's appearance as a tactic to retain current partners (Davis and Arnocky, 2020). It seems that such a motive, among many others previously identified in the literature, such as intrasexual competition (Mafra et al., 2020Varella, Valentova, and Fernández, 2017), social prestige (Mileva, 2016), and status-seeking (Blake, 2021), might be less pronounced compared to the motive of attracting a potential partner. Thus, to disentangle the influence of relationship status on beauty enhancing behaviors, researchers should control the type of relationship more specifically–not only controlling whether individuals are in a relationship, but also whether they are currently courting.

4.2. Pathogen prevalence

We found evidence for the fifth hypothesis and less consistent evidence for the fourth. Individuals with a more severe history of transmittable diseases spent relatively more time improving their appearance, but the relationship between country-level pathogen prevalence and beauty-enhancing behaviors only emerged when using the pathogen prevalence index from Fincher et al. (2008), but not from Murray and Schaller (2010). The effect size for the individual level pathogen history was moderate compared to other predictors. Interestingly, the link between time spent enhancing one's attractiveness and individual history of transmittable diseases was more pronounced for men than women. It is noteworthy that the immunosuppressive effects of circulating testosterone, that are higher in men than women, may make men more vulnerable to pathogens than women (Furman et al., 2014Giefing-Kröll, Berger, Lepperdinger, and Grubeck-Loebenstein, 2015).

The pathogen prevalence index (Murray and Schaller, 2010), which was introduced as a country-level predictor variable, was drawn from historical data on the severity of transmittable diseases in given countries. It may be that the effects of modernization and globalization are slowly leveling traditional inequalities in access to health care. Thus, countries that struggled with severe diseases in the past (e.g., Burkina Faso, Burundi, and the Central African Republic; Bhargava, Jamison, Lau, and Murray, 2001) may now provide better healthcare for their citizens (WHO, 2000). We conclude that it might be preferred to consider more contemporary approaches to computing pathogen prevalence (Fincher et al., 2008) when analyzing phenomena that are strongly affected by the current socio-environmental conditions more than those of the distant past (i.e., behaviors aimed at increasing one's physical attractiveness; Blake, 2022Mafra et al., 2020).

When considering an individual's history of pathogen stress, we observed that those who suffered from more transmittable diseases in their lifetimes also spent more time enhancing their beauty than did those who reported a more favorable health history. On average, those who suffered from one or more diseases spent as much as 1.5 h more improving their appearance compared to those who did not encounter any severe infections in their lifetimes. Physical attractiveness can indicate the absence of underlying diseases (Tybur and Gangestad, 2011; but see Jones, Holzleitner, and Shiramizu, 2021), and it may be that people are aware of this link (Gray and Boothroyd, 2012Henderson and Anglin, 2003). Indeed, Fink et al. (2017) showed that ratings of facial healthiness correlate with ratings of facial attractiveness. On the other hand, individuals who are perceived as unhealthy and less attractive might evoke negative psychological and physiological responses (e.g., disgust; Principe and Langlois, 2011Schein and Langlois, 2015). Individuals who have undergone severe diseases may have more visible perceived imperfections (e.g., asymmetries or flawed skin condition; Samson, Fink, and Matts, 2010). As evidenced by Wakeda, Okamura, Kawahara, and Heike (2020), such individuals might be more motivated to cover these imperfections to present themselves as healthier (and more attractive) than they actually are. An alternative but not mutually exclusive explanation would be that performing beauty-enhancing behaviors by individuals who suffered from infectious diseases might simply take more time than performing those same behavior by their counterparts who did not suffer from health and body devastating diseases. While using make-up is a relatively simple behavior for women, men might have to go to greater lengths to achieve the same level of attractiveness enhancement, hence the observed larger effect sizes for men than women with a history of pathogen stress. However, one needs to keep in mind that relatively few individuals have suffered from any of the nine transmittable diseases tested here, and thus, this result needs to be cautiously interpreted.

4.3. Biosocial role theory

We found support for both the sixth and seventh hypotheses: women from countries with lower (vs. higher) gender equality and women conforming (vs. not conforming) to traditional gender roles spent more time enhancing their attractiveness. Interestingly, the effect size for gender role equality on an individual-level was large, while moderate on a country-level. Our results align with early studies demonstrating a link between attitudes toward gender roles and attitudes toward one's body (Freedman, 1984Striegel-Moore, Silberstein, and Rodin, 1986). Jackson, Sullivan, and Rostker (1988) observed that cultural standards about beauty affect women who adhere to stereotypical gender roles more than they affect those who have less favorable attitudes toward stereotypical gender roles. Furthermore, Shipley, O'donnell, and Bader (1977) provided evidence that women who decided to augment their breasts through an invasive surgery were more prone to comply with traditional gender roles than were women in the control group.

Women from more gender-equal countries and with more gender-equal personal attitudes may be less pressured to comply with the belief that beauty is a prerequisite of the feminine gender role (Buote et al., 2011Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997). Instead, they may fulfill themselves differently, going beyond the traditional feminine stereotype (Jameson, 2012). The role of gender equality on beauty ideals is an active and important avenue of research that must now aim to include women from a broader range of cultures. Our results show similar relationships are also found among men. The more gender-equal the country and the higher men's individual levels of endorsement of gender equal roles, the less time men spent enhancing their physical attractiveness. This result is especially interesting when considering that, stereotypically and traditionally, men are thought to be less interested in their appearance relative to women (IIsser, 2020). However, other factors may come into play for such men. For instance, because upper body strength has been hypothesized to serve an important role in our evolutionary past (Puts, 2010), and still today, more muscularized men are considered more masculine (McCreary, Saucier, and Courtenay, 2005). Hence, men who wish to be perceived as masculine may be particularly interested in performing physical exercises (Galli, Petrie, Reel, Chatterton, and Baghurst, 2014Yeung, Massar, and Jonas, 2021). Attaining a muscular body might be less important for men who do not conform to stereotypical gender roles (Readdy, Cardinal, and Watkins, 2011).

Considering all men and women in our study, those from the least gender-equal countries devoted on average one and a half hours more improving their attractiveness compared to those from the most gender-equal countries. This gap was even larger for individual-level endorsement of gender roles. Participants who had the lowest scores on the gender equality scale (that is, those who supported gender roles) devoted on average two hours more per day enhancing their physical attractiveness compared to those who had the highest scores on the gender equality scale (that is, those who did not support traditional gender roles).

4.4. Cultural media perspective

Results of the current study support both the eighth and nineth hypotheses: individuals who spent more time on social media and watching TV also spent more time enhancing their attractiveness. Most researchers agree that the media often conveys unrealistic physical ideals (Barlett, Vowels, and Saucier, 2008Levine and Murnen, 2009Thompson and Stice, 2001), that are also often unattainable for the average person (Grogan, 2016). Confronting one's body with the photo-retouched silhouettes of models may trigger many negative feelings and behaviors, including anxiety, depressive symptoms, body dissatisfaction, and eating disorders (Fardouly and Vartanian, 2015Mills, Musto, Williams, and Tiggemann, 2018). Apart from evoking affective responses, watching idealized media images may also expose one to more advertisements aimed at appearance-enhancing products and may in turn increase a willingness to comply with the widespread canon of beauty (de Vries, Peter, Nikken, and de Graaf, 2014Gambla, Fernandez, Gassman, Tan, and Daniel, 2017), that, presumably, may help to explain the strong link between media exposure and time spent improving one's attractiveness in the current research. However, given the correlational nature of this research, we cannot rule out the possibility that the direction of causality may be reversed, such that people who choose to invest more time improving their appearance are thus more prone to use social media, or the possibility that a third unknown factor may explain the link between beauty-enhancing behaviors and social media usage.

Interestingly, we observed that spending time on social media was more strongly related to enhancing one's beauty than was watching TV. In fact, social media usage was the strongest predictor of beauty-enhancing behaviors among all predictors. Furthermore, watching TV was more strongly related to physical attractiveness enhancing behaviors among women than men, while social media usage explained more variance in these behaviors among men than women. These results are in line with those of previous studies (see e.g., Sampasa-Kanyinga, Colman, Goldfield, Hamilton, and Chaput, 2020Sorokowski et al., 2016). We also found that participants who spent the most time watching TV spent 1 h more time daily enhancing their attractiveness than did those who spent the least amount of time watching TV, on average. In comparison, those who spent the most time on social media spent 2 h more per day improving their looks than did those who spent the least amount of time on social media, on average.

Our results seem to corroborate those of previous studies highlighting an exceptionally strong negative link between social media usage and well-being, that is particularly worrisome given the stark rise in social media usage in the past decade. For instance, engaging in social media activity is linked to negative mood (Mills et al., 2018), poor academic performance (Abdulahi, Jalil, Lumpur, Samadi, and Gharleghi, 2014), chronic sleep deprivation (Abi-Jaoude, Naylor, and Pignatiello, 2020), and the possible emergence of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders (Cataldo, Lepri, Neoh, and Esposito, 2021). Although some studies focus on counteracting these adverse effects (see, e.g., Fardouly and Holland, 2018Tiggemann and Anderberg, 2020), more actions, especially from policymakers, are needed to protect the mental health of social media users.

4.5. Individualism-collectivism continuum

We found support for the eleventh but not tenth hypotheses: personal individualistic attitudes were positively related to the amount of time spent enhancing one's beauty, but country-level individualism scores were not. However, the effect size for individual-level attitudes toward individualism and collectivism was negligible compared to other predictors. Moreover, this effect was mainly driven by women, as the individualism score was not related to time spent enhancing attractiveness among men. The most individualistically oriented women spent half an hour more time improving their attractiveness than the most collectivistically-oriented women, on average.

Interestingly, our results contradict some previous findings. For instance, recent statistics revealed that people in Asia, where collectivism is, on average, more common than individualism, vigorously pursue beauty standards and spend the most money on skincare (Euromonitor, 2021), even compared with the leading Western economies that are more individualistic (e.g., USA or UK). Furthermore, one-third of women between the ages of 19 and 29 from South Korea (a collectivistic country) report undergoing aesthetic surgery (Gallup Korea, 2015Hu, 2018). On the other hand, although individuals adhering to more individualistic values may be less prone to undergoing plastic surgeries (Frederick and Gan, 2015), as it is less of a cultural norm compared to some more collectivistic Asian countries (Heidekrueger et al., 2017), people with individualistic attitudes might nevertheless be more willing to perform other types of activities explored in the current study (e.g., body hygiene, caring for diet, exercising, hair grooming, clothing style).

4.6. Other factors

We observed a positive link between time spent enhancing beauty and higher socioeconomic status (stronger effect for men), lower education (but only among women), right-wing political beliefs (but only among women), and a U-shaped relationship for self-assessed attractiveness (stronger effect for men). Notably, only self-assessed attractiveness was moderately linked to self-modification, while the remaining predictors (socioeconomic status, attained level of education, and political beliefs) had small effect sizes.

Previous research has produced conflicting results about the relationship between self-assessed attractiveness and beauty-enhancing behaviors. On one hand, individuals with higher self-esteem (which is a predictor of higher self-assessed attractiveness; Bale, 2010) reported using fewer cosmetics (Fares et al., 2019). On the other hand, individuals who considered themselves more attractive spent more time improving their looks (Antonova and Merenkov, 2020). Our results shed more light on this matter by providing evidence that those who believe in their very high attractiveness care the most for their appearance, followed by those who consider themselves as very unattractive, with those who believe they look average spending the least amount of time improving their attractiveness. As we cannot infer causation from correlation, future studies could experimentally investigate whether enhancing one's beauty increases self-assessed attractiveness or rather that more beautiful individuals are more willing to increase (or maintain) their attractiveness (for some preliminary evidence on the first prediction, see Anchieta et al., 2021).

As for the explanation of other predictors, we hypothesize that individuals of a relatively higher socioeconomic status may have more time and money to improve their appearance, whereas higher education may work as a buffer against focusing excessively on one's appearance, while instead focusing on other traits and skills. Nevertheless, high education is usually linked to higher socioeconomic status (Boshara, Emmons, and Noeth, 2015), so the opposite results for these two variables require investigation in further studies. Finally, regarding political views, is it possible that physical attractiveness might be more important for relatively more conservative individuals. For instance, some researchers have found that right-wing politicians appear more attractive than left-wing politicians (Berggren, Jordahl, and Poutvaara, 2010) and right-wing political beliefs tend to be conservative (Karwowski et al., 2020). This hypothesis likewise requires further investigation.

4.7. Summary, limitations, and future directions

Several decades ago, a preoccupation with one's body image was thought to be a typically female issue (van Lennep, 1957). However, more recent studies provide converging evidence that men also care for their looks (Antonova and Merenkov, 2020Kowal and Sorokowski, 2022Mafra et al., 2016). Indeed, we show that only 0.003% of women or men indicate not doing anything to improve their appearance, and only 1% (among whom half were men) report spending <10 min a day enhancing their beauty. In comparison, 99% of the nearly one-hundred thousand people in our cross-cultural sample report spending >10 min a day enhancing their physical appearance, and on average around 4 h daily. Thus, we conclude that beauty-enhancing behavior is a universal phenomenon.

This may not come as a surprise, as previous studies provide abundant evidence that attractiveness can be beneficial in manifold ways and that humans are concerned with physical attractiveness, largely because of the social and reproductive benefits it can confer. For instance, more attractive individuals are often treated more positively (Langlois et al., 2000), are preferred as potential partners (Walter et al., 2020) and friends (Vannatta, Gartstein, Zeller, and Noll, 2009Zakin, 1983), are perceived as healthier (Fink et al., 2017) and as more competent (Etcoff, Stock, Haley, Vickery, and House, 2011), are more likely to be hired for jobs (Cash and Kilcullen, 1985), earn higher tips as servers (Parrett, 2015), earn higher salaries both at the early stage of the career (Dossinger, Wanberg, Choi, and Leslie, 2019) and from a lifetime perspective (Scholz and Sicinski, 2015), are more popular as athletes (Mutz and Meier, 2016), receive a higher endorsement in politics (Berggren et al., 2010), and report higher psychological well-being and lower levels of distress and depression (Gupta, Etcoff, and Jaeger, 2016).

However, when it comes to factors linked to the intensity of beauty-enhancing behaviors, the matter becomes more complex, as many aspects come into play. Apart from evolutionary theory, here we provide support for several other perspectives that have attempted to describe and explain who devotes more energy to enhancing one's appearance, and why. Importantly, these theories are not mutually exclusive. Instead, when considering them jointly, they offer a valuable and extensive (but not exhaustive) theoretical framework for analyzing activities aimed at increasing one's looks. Each perspective adds another piece to the puzzle by suggesting a distinctive (and as our results show, a significant) explanation for why a given social or demographic group should be particularly interested in improving their beauty. The mate preference perspective appeals to the human evolutionary past and sexual selection pressures that have shaped different mating strategies between the sexes (Buss, 2015Tooby, 2018Tooby and Cosmides, 1990Walter et al., 2020). The pathogen prevalence approach suggests that humans have an evolved ability to detect cues of transmittable diseases, especially in pathogen-rich environments (Murray and Schaller, 2010), and one way to advertise one's health (i.e., a lack of pathogens) is through improving one's physical appearance (Tybur and Gangestad, 2011). The biosocial role theory concerns the influence of physiological differences and gender constructs on forming the propensity of women to comply with the pursuit of feminine beauty (Eagly and Wood, 1999Wood and Eagly, 2012). The cultural media approach relates to the influence of mass media in pressuring people to conform to the westernized canon of beauty (Murnen and Seabrook, 2012Stephens et al., 1994Xu et al., 2010). The individualism-collectivism continuum refers to how an individual relies on others, either caring more for the welfare of their group or caring more for their personal aspirations and goals (Markus and Kitayama, 1991), which may be consequential when devoting time and energy to one's appearance.

Although the current study sheds new light on beauty-enhancing behaviors, it is not free of limitations. First, the research was conducted mostly with the use of virtual survey tools, rather than in person. Many researchers highlight the importance of advanced methods for screening and filtering careless responses in online surveys (see, e.g., DeSimone, Harms, and DeSimone, 2015Wood, Harms, Lowman, and DeSimone, 2017) and thus, we excluded responses from participants who failed the attention check. Second, while our sample included a large number of countries (i.e., 93), it is not exhaustively representative of all human cultures. Moreover, even less representative are samples from less modernized countries, where access to Internet is relatively more limited than in more industrialized countries, in turn limiting the probability of participants from such samples being invited to participate in the study (Batres and Perrett, 2014). Third, our participants were primarily well-educated (65% obtained a bachelor's degree or higher), and most of them were women (67%). Fourth, our data are not experimental and thus, no causal conclusions can be made. Further studies could include a longitudinal design to explore intra-individual variability of self-modification practices. Fifth, most of our participants were cis-gender and heterosexual. It is important to replicate the present study on a more sexually diverse sample. Future studies could also provide some interesting insight on self-modification in dyadic relationships, depending on the partners' mate value: does a larger gap between the mate values of partners predict more intense beauty-investments? Sixth, although we emphasized to participants in written instructions to indicate time spent on a given beauty-enhancing activity only if it is performed for appearance-enhancing reasons (and not, for example, for health reasons), we cannot exclude the possibility that some participants miscounted time spent on various activities. Indeed, our study's greatest limitation is self-reported data, which is susceptible to biases and errors.

Our open-access dataset provides an excellent opportunity to further test a manifold of interesting hypotheses. Therefore, we encourage scholars to analyze it (the dataset is publicly available under the link https://osf.io/sh3an/) to shed even more light on attractiveness enhancing behaviors. One could, for instance, focus on the relationship between activities aimed at increasing one's appearance and country-level variables, such as income inequality (Blake and Brooks, 2019) or the modernization index (Zhang and He, 2015), and individual-level variables pertaining to, for instance, partners' relationships, such as durability of marriages (Parker, Durante, Hill, and Haselton, 2022) and marital satisfaction (Kowal, Groyecka-Bernard, Kochan-Wójcik, and Sorokowski, 2021). Finally, it is important to emphasize that the established boundaries among the theoretical perspectives examined in this study are in fact blurry, as the theories share many similarities in their rationale for beauty-enhancing behaviors. The theories thus provide a framework for hypothesis testing and should not necessarily be considered as opposing one another, but rather, as complimentary.

The impact of social media on beliefs or actual outcomes has been either non-existent or inconclusive; people who believe in conspiracies gravitate toward groups that espouse these

Processes of Persuasion and Social Influence in Conspiracy Beliefs. Dolores Albarracin. Current Opinion in Psychology, September 5 2022, 101463. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2022.101463

Abstract: If conspiracy beliefs were an individual process, no conspiracy theory would be alike. Instead, these beliefs are promoted by individuals or social groups through the media or informal channels of communication, leading to identical beliefs being espoused by different people and social groups. This paper reviews the role of the social influence as a basis for conspiracy beliefs and describes the role of legacy media, discussions with others, and social media, as well as the underlying informational and normative mechanisms. The role of trust is also considered, including how trust in science can increase vulnerability to conspiracy theories by opening audiences up to the influence of pseudo-scientists. Mitigating the impact of these influences will require research attention to processes that go beyond correction, elucidating the interpersonal consequences of corrections within contemporary information wars.