Date of Award

Spring 5-2016

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Academic Program

Biological Sciences BS



First Advisor

Donald Sacco

Advisor Department



Although general consumer spending usually decreases during economic recessions, Hill and colleagues (2012) found evidence that women concerned with economic recession demonstrated an increased preference towards purchasing products capable of enhancing physical beauty, thereby allowing them to appear more attractive to mates with resources. Referring to this phenomenon as the lipstick effect, these researchers suggested such purchasing preferences demonstrate evidence for an evolved female mating strategy. The current study was designed to more directly test whether the lipstick effect represents an evolved female mating adaptation by determining if it operates at the level of automaticity, specifically automatic visual attention (Fodor, 1983). Female participants were randomly assigned to a recession prime or control prime condition (via condition-specific writing prompts) and then completed a dot-probe visual attention task that assessed automatic attentional bias toward beauty and non-beauty products. Consistent with the hypothesis that the lipstick effect operates at the level of automatic visual attention, women in the recession prime condition had greater difficulty disengaging their attention from beauty compared to non-beauty products (i.e., automatic attentional adhesion to beauty products relative to non-beauty products); no comparable effects were found for women in the control condition. These findings demonstrate that the lipstick effect operates at the level of automaticity, thereby providing additional evidence that it may be a female-specific mating adaptation.


Honors College Award: Excellence in Research