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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2018, Vol. 50 Issue (4) : 363-376     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00363
 Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: The halo effect and generalization effect in the facial attractiveness evaluation
 HAN Shangfeng1; LI Yue1,2; LIU Shen1,3; XU Qiang1; TAN Qun1; ZHANG Lin1
 (1 Department and Institute of Psychology, Ningbo University, Ningbo 315211, China) (2 Yunnan Business Vocational College, Kunming 650000, China) (3 School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei 230022, China)
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Abstract   Even though people usually agreed that “a book should not be judged by its cover”, researches had repeatedly demonstrated that individuals spontaneously and very swiftly formed impression on others based merely on the appearance of their faces. Facial attractiveness is an important content in the first perception. Which had been linked to outcomes as diverse as mate choice, job hunting, and cooperation. Given these real world consequences of the first impressions, it is important to understand how these impressions are formed. Some studies found that facial physical characteristics, such as symmetry, averageness and sexual dimorphism, had a great impact on facial attractiveness. While different individuals have different experience, when faced with the same face in the same context, different individuals have different evaluations on facial attractiveness. Some researchers put forward a new theory, namely, the observer hypothesis, which demonstrated that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, the processing of unfamiliar facial attractiveness remained unclear. The goal of the current study was to explore how we processed the impression of unfamiliar facial attractiveness. 19 males and 27 females took part in the experiment one and 16 males and 22 females participated in the experiment two, each experiment contained two phases that were learning tasks and evaluation tasks. In the learning phase, participants firstly learned to associate faces with negative, neutral, or positive trait words or imaged the behavior of the individuals to form different impression, which was contribute to the same valence between the neutral face and trait words or sentence. When participants could evaluate the valence of the face correctly, they could proceed to the next phase. In the experiment one, 13 males and 25 females had passed learning phase and evaluated the original faces and the unfamiliar faces. In the experiment two, 12 males and 17 females had done the learning task and evaluation task successfully. And in the evaluation phase, extend of warmth, competence and facial attractiveness of the unfamiliar faces, which had 50% similarity with the learned faces, were evaluated. Both of the two experiments had the same results, which showed that there are two ways to form unfamiliar facial attractiveness: (1) the first one is that generalization effect occurred after halo effect, compared with negative familiar faces, positive familiar faces were evaluated more attractive, so did the unfamiliar faces that were familiar with positive familiar faces; (2) the second one is that halo effect occurred after generalization effect, unfamiliar faces which were similar with positive familiar faces were not only evaluated more positive but also more attractive. The results suggested that generalization effect occurred after halo effect and halo effect occurred after generalization effect were the two ways to form unfamiliar facial attractiveness. In conclusion, halo effect and generalization effect play an important role in the processing of unfamiliar facial attractiveness.
Keywords similarity      halo effect      generalization effect      unfamiliar facial attractiveness      impression formation     
Corresponding Authors: ZHANG Lin, E-mail:; 刘燊, E-mail:     E-mail: E-mail:; E-mail:
Issue Date: 28 February 2018
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HAN Shangfeng
LI Yue
LIU Shen
XU Qiang
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HAN Shangfeng,LI Yue,LIU Shen, et al.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: The halo effect and generalization effect in the facial attractiveness evaluation[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2018, 50(4): 363-376.
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