Beauty in the Eye of the Economy

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Not even movie stars are immune from the effects of recession. Illuminating an unexpected consequence of economic volatility, Minnesota Public Radio reports on research showing that our conception of beauty changes with the market. Reporter Nikki Tundel spoke with psychology professor Terry Pettijohn, who studied the phenomenon by analyzing the physical features of popular actresses during economic booms and busts. Tundel reports:

In the early 1980s, for example, the country was emerging from a recession. Things were looking up. That’s when women like Sissy Spacek and Sally Field really made it big on the big screen. Both actresses, says Pettijohn, had young, almost cherubic features. The same could be said for a young Bette Davis, who had one of the most popular faces during the 1940s, another era where prosperity was on the rise.

The early 1990s, on the other hand, were a time of economic struggle. During those years, Emma Thompson and Sharon Stone were among the most celebrated actresses. Both had strong bone structures, smaller eyes and more mature-looking faces.

While Pettijohn found perceptions of female beauty varied with economic conditions, he told Tundel physical characteristics deemed attractive in men were unaffected.

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