Date of Award

1989

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

W. Drew Gouvier

Abstract

Physical attractiveness has been shown to be an important interpersonal variable. Physically attractive persons are perceived by others as possessing high levels of positive characteristics such as intelligence, competence, and warmth. Although research from social psychology has suggested that physical attractiveness has a major impact on peoples' perceptions, research on the behavioral assessment of social skill and anxiety has given little attention to the effects of physical attractiveness on ratings of skill and anxiety. The present study was designed to assess the effects of physical attractiveness on ratings of heterosocial skill and anxiety. A 4(groups) $\times$ 2(Observers) factorial design that was based on the Solomon four-group design was utilized, with physical attractiveness being the "pre-post testing" and a five-minute role-play interaction being the "treatment". The format for each group was as follows: (Group 1) rate attractiveness, rate skill and anxiety, rate attractiveness; (Group 2) rate skill and anxiety, rate attractiveness; (Group 3) rate attractiveness, wait five minutes, rate attractiveness; (Group 4) wait five minutes, rate attractiveness. The skill and anxiety ratings were done via audio hook-up. Subjects included 80 female undergraduates (20 per group). Ratings were done by six trained (three male and three female) and six untrained (three male and three female) observers. Interobserver reliabilities were found to be at acceptable levels. Results from the 2(Group) $\times$ 2(Observers) MANOVA were significant for differences between Group 1 and Group 2 and for differences between observers. An examination of the univariate ANOVAs for differences between Groups 1 and 2 revealed that subjects in Group 1 were rated significantly higher on skill and the four intermediate behaviors and lower on anxiety than subjects in Group 2. None of the univariate ANOVAs for differences between observers reached significance. As such, a stepwise discriminant analysis was performed and two of the intermediate behaviors, personal conversation type and conversation content, significantly discriminated between trained and untrained observers. These results suggest that physical attractiveness affects both trained and untrained observers ratings of skill and anxiety. The reason for the differences in observers, with trained observers apparently being more influenced by attractiveness on the two intermediate behaviors than untrained observers, is not known and further research is necessary to fully explain these differences. However, it does appear that physical attractiveness affects observers' ratings of heterosocial skill and anxiety and needs to be evaluated in future research dealing with social skills.

Pages

88

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