Experimental Aesthetics & Asian Beauty

Update August 2018 – new paper published on the instability of beauty judgments

In this paper, we show that deciding how beautiful a face or a building is can be manipulated or depend on the outcome of previous monetary exchanges.

  • Aesthetic judgments depend on whether one is engaged on cooperation or competition.
  • Competitive (vs. cooperative) social exchanges suppress overall aesthetic judgments.
  • Yet, women’s evaluations of women’s faces are a special case: competition (vs. cooperation) elevates attractiveness ratings.
  • Self-affirmation restores women-to-women ratings only at the competitive state, and boosts women-to-men

(Free till 19 Oct 2018)

Beauty has been the topic of numerous disciplines, ranging from philosophy to business. Early on, Plato said that Beauty (along with goodness and truth) is one of the ideals for human development.

But can we study Beauty perceptions experimentally and in a systematic way? In our lab, Natalie Truong and Emma Sam are trying to understand how the environment could affect beauty perceptions. We employ a conceptual framework termed “Experimental Aesthetics”; check out our article for more details on this approach here.

‘The beauty premium: Why good looks pay’ or ‘Attractive people are more successful’ are several common newspaper headlines about beauty. Research has shown that physically attractive people tend to receive favorable treatment in many aspects of life, and for that reason, beauty is a topic of interest for many researchers and companies.

Beauty is a concept that is difficult to verbalize. Beauty might be implicitly assessed – people might recognize something is beautiful, but they may be less likely to understand why it is so. Therefore, we use more implicit and advanced methods such as eye-tracking, mouse-tracking, computerized tests, and experimental studies.


One of the obstacles for researchers and companies intending to study beauty and cosmetic preferences in Asia is the lack of a systematic and consistent set of stimuli. With an aim to fill that gap, we are developing a make-up database together with a renowned cosmetic company. We have established an in-house studio at our lab where we capture images from different camera angles of Asian women in different age groups and with different make-up styles.

At the DEON lab, we study beauty across numerous Asian countries. We examine various aspects of beauty, based on data collected from a large sample. We also collaborate with companies in large-scale projects, through which we gain insights that are not only significant for academic research but also relevant for industrial practices.

Beauty has a significant role in many aspects of consumers’ lives, including health and wellness, identity and interpersonal relationships, among others. We try to understand beauty on a deeper level, especially focusing on its psychological aspects.