A study by researchers in Bangor University and Aberdeen University surveyed 44 students and reported that subjects found women with makeup less attractive than the same women without makeup. They actually proved this with numbers. Numbers! Look, Mom, I scienced! The study was published by the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology and picked up yesterday by TIME.
The Frisky was not present when this study was conceived, but we like to imagine it looked something like this:
Bob and Sally are graduate students at Bangor University. One evening, they meet in Bob’s tiny office to discuss a research project.
Bob: Let’s find out with science if makeup makes you more attractive! We’ll take pictures of women with and without makeup and ask students to rank the pictures according to attractiveness!
Sally: That doesn’t sound very scientific, Bob. For one thing, ‘attractive’ is really vague. Is that someone you want to date? Someone you want to fuck? Someone who doesn’t interest you as a person but whose statuesque beauty you admire from afar? It’s going to mean something different to every participant, and then you’re going to lump all their responses together in a chart like they’re the same.
Bob: Gosh, that sounds like a problem.
Sally: You’re right, Bob! And it’s not the only one. “Attractive” is a culturally loaded concept. If you show a subject photos of the same person with different amounts of makeup, they’re going to understand that the study is about how they feel about makeup. Don’t you think, just to give one example, that a subject might state a preference for no-makeup images because they want to seem progressive?
Bob: Shit, you’re right! Science is really hard. Okay, okay, what about this. “Attractive” is too vague. Let’s measure sexual response in the subjects instead. You can’t lie about that. We’ll attach devices to their head to measure brainwave patterns and to their penis to measure erectile response (1).
Sally: Okay, I like how you’re thinking. This gets us a little closer. At least we’re measuring the same thing in every subject. But Bob, I still don’t see how we’re gonna control our variables. For one thing, wouldn’t a difference in response between the 4th and the 50th image be explained by the fact that it is the 50th image?
Bob: I guess that’s plausible.
Sally: And for another thing, I think you’d have to expect that sexual excitement in the subject might be suppressed by the fact that THERE ARE WIRES STRAPPED TO HIS COCK! TO HIS COCK, BOB! HOW ABOUT I STRAP WIRES TO YOUR COCK! ARE YOU AROUSED, BOB? DO YOU WANNA FUCK ME NOW, BOB? WITH THESE WIRES, WHICH ARE STRAPPED — and I understand that I’m repeating myself — TO YOUR COCK?!
A long moment’s pause
Bob: That actually was kinda hot what you just did.
Sally: See? That’s weird, Bob. One participant like you would fuck this experiment right up. You’re what we in science call an outlier. We would have to find some way to exclude people like you. That’s another problem right there.
Bob: Alright, fine, I see this isn’t really going to work. Thing is, though, I’ve already submitted the proposal and we need to do something. Can’t we just do the survey like I said at the start and have done with it? Who really cares?
Sally: Eh, I guess you’re right. I mean it doesn’t matter, does it? It’s not like it’s going to get picked up by any major journals or TIME magazine or anything.
Bob cracks open two cans of Narragansett (2) and passes one to Sally.
Bob: To science!
Sally: To science!
Bob: So…these wires…do you actually have-
Sally: I have a boyfriend, Bob.
Bob: Right, of course, sorry.
Sally: And also, just generally, no.
End of scene
(1) People really do this
(2) Note: Bangor University is in Wales, not Bangor, Maine. Bob just really likes Narragansett.
Kale Bogdanovs is a standup comic and also Jessica’s husband. Follow him on Twitter.