Why are women on the covers of magazines more frequently than men?


I always found it funny that if you check out a woman’s magazine, like Cosmo, there’s a woman on the cover. And if you check out a men’s magazine like Maxim… there’s a woman on the cover. Seems like everybody thinks you can’t go wrong with pretty women. Turns out science agrees:

Substantial evidence suggests that physical attractiveness plays an important role in shaping overt mating preferences, judgments, and choices. Relatively few studies, however, have investigated the hypothesis that perceivers are attuned to signs of attractiveness at early, lower-order stages of social perception. In the current research, a visual cueing task was used to assess biases in attentional disengagement—the extent to which people’s attention becomes “stuck” on particular social stimuli. Findings indicate that, consistent with some evolutionary theories, perceivers of both sexes exhibited attentional attunement to attractive women, but not attractive men. Additional findings suggest that this bias was pronounced in sexually unrestricted men and in women who felt insecure about a current romantic relationship. This research provides novel evidence for adaptive, lower-order perceptual attunements in the domain of human mating.

Source: “Adaptive attentional attunement: evidence for mating-related perceptual bias” from “Evolution and Human Behavior”

Makes PEOPLE magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue all that much more of a compliment, I guess.  :)

But does a women on the cover actually *sell* more magazines? There’s reason to believe the answer is yes:

This study examines how using a photo in the cover letter of a mail survey affects mail survey response. A 2 × 2 factorial design was used that manipulated the physical attractiveness and gender of the supposed researcher that was depicted in the cover letter photo. In addition, a control group was used that received a cover letter without a photo. The results revealed the following: (1) a photo of the survey researcher does not enhance the response rate to the survey; (2) in the case of an attractive male researcher, a photo may dampen the response rate; and (3) within the factorial design, the only variable to have an effect on the survey’s response rate was the gender variable: Photos depicting female researchers produced a higher response rate than photos depicting male researchers. This study also illustrated that a crude pretest of the survey procedures with students can, in some areas, produce fairly accurate predictions of the results of a field experiment.

Source: “The effects of the researcher’s physical attractiveness and gender on mail survey response” from the journal “Psychology and Marketing”

This doesn’t prove higher sales but it does show higher engagement and compliance. Ever notice that voicemail instructions are almost always female voices? I’m sure there’s something to that too.

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