Having plastic surgery may do more than make you look younger. It could change — for the better — how people perceive you.
A new study from researchers at Georgetown University School of Medicine shows that women who have had certain procedures done are perceived by others as having greater social skills and are considered more likeable, attractive, and feminine.
The study is not superficial, the researchers are quick to note, explaining the importance of facial appearance is rooted in evolution. They add that studies suggest that judging a person based on his or her appearance boils down to survival.
“Our animal instinct tells us to avoid those who are ill-willed and we know from previous research that personality traits are drawn from an individual’s neutral expressions,” said Michael J. Reilly, M.D., an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine.
Reilly and his colleagues set out to evaluate the changes in personality perception that occur after various types of facial rejuvenation surgery, including face lifts, upper and lower eye lifts, brow lifts, neck lifts and chin implants.
For the study, the researchers showed pre- and post-operative photos of 30 Caucasian women to 170 people who were asked to rate their perception of attractiveness and femininity, and personality traits, such as extraversion, likeability, social skills, risk-seeking behavior, aggressiveness and trustworthiness.
No reviewer saw both the before and after photos of the same woman, and no one knew whether plastic surgery had been performed, the researchers explained.
The study found that post-surgery improvement was detected for four traits: Social skills, likeability, attractiveness and femininity. While not statistically significant, a trend toward trustworthiness also was seen, the researchers noted.
“Having a facelift and lower eye lift were the two procedures that appeared to garner more favorable reviews after surgery, with the lower eye lift carrying a little more weight,” Reilly said.
He noted an earlier study showed that the eyes are highly diagnostic for attractiveness, as well as for trustworthiness.
“This may explain why the patients who had a lower eyelift were found to be significantly more attractive and feminine, and experienced improved trustworthiness scores,” he said.
Attempts were made to determine if there was an identifiable factor that may have yielded less favorable responses, but no single variable appears to be statistically significant, Reilly added. He noted that some patients were rated for increased aggressiveness and risk-taking after surgery.
“Some might say that is negative, but others may want that look,” he said.
He pointed out the study was small and included only white females, potentially limiting its application for others.
“It’s reasonable to expect that patients would like to know how each surgical procedure could affect others’ perceptions of their personality traits,” he said. “As we gain more specific knowledge about what these changes in perception are, we will be able to improve outcomes for our patients.”
The study was published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.
Image Credit: Michael J. Reilly, M.D./Georgetown