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    Desire To Look Attractive Linked To Fear Of Rejection

    By Margarita Nahapetyan

    Individuals who are afraid of being rejected by their peers are under constant pressure to look good and attractive, says a new latest study by the scientists at the University of Kent and the University of Buffalo.

    The investigators Lora Park, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, who led the study in collaboration with graduate student Ann Marie DiRaddo of the University at Buffalo, and Rachel Calogero of the University of Kent in England, said that their research also revealed that both men and women who had compared themselves to media ideals of attractiveness, had higher levels of emotional pressure, when compared to their peers.

    Researchers said that the pressure particularly affects college students, who are more likely than adults to desire a resemblance with models or music and movie stars. Within younger age groups, in general, the tendency to outcast individuals who do not fit a certain beauty or behavior criteria is especially noticeable. According to Dr. Park, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that physically attractive people are less likely to be stigmatized by others in the modern world, and have greater advantages in many areas of life than those who are not viewed as physically attractive.

    For the study purposes, the experts recruited 220 U.S. college students - 106 women and 114 men - with the ages between 18 and 33 years. All the participants were asked to fill out a series of questionnaires, including scales that examined and analyzed the perceived influence of peers and parents on sensitivity to rejection based on someone's appearance. The experts also used the Sociocultural Attitudes Toward Appearance Scale-3, which assesses dimensions of media influence related to body image and appearance.

    Dr. Park and her team found that overall women demonstrated greater sensitivity to appearance rejection, compared to their male counterparts. This held particularly true of young women who felt that it was a must for them to look pretty in order to be accepted by their peers. They proved to be very sensitive about the way they looked, and especially were likely to be upset by comments on the way they looked, coming from their peers with more attractive appearance.

    The study found that men and women who had internalized media ideals of attractiveness were affected more by appearance-based rejection, than did their peers. No relationship was found between parents' perceptions of attractiveness and an increased sensitivity of the study participants' to appearance-based rejection. Therefore, the investigators came to the conclusion that it is peer and media influences, rather than influence of a family, that play a key role in appearance-based rejection sensitivity. The results held true even after accounting for people's self-esteem, self-perceived attractiveness and sensitivity to rejection in general.

    Although the current study concentrated mostly on a young, white college-age subjects, the experts say that future studies on the matter should investigate rejection sensitivity based on appearance across individuals with diverse ages and ethnic groups, in order to better understand its prevalence and to figure out how it can be reduced.

    The study is published in the spring edition of Psychology of Women Quarterly, a publication of the American Psychological Association.

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