Aging & Longevity
Can aging face become more likeable,
feminine with plastic surgery?
Study in Journal of American Medical
Association says there is more to the surgery than looking younger
Donna Andersen had lower and
upper eye lid surgery. She had improved scores for femininity,
attractiveness, social skills and extroversion. (Left: before
surgery/Right: after surgery). Michael J. Reilly/Georgetown
April 9, 2015 – Senior citizens
usually think of facial plastic surgery as a way to look younger. A new
study – the first to examine perceptions after plastic surgery – has
found it does more than make you look youthful. It concludes that women
who have certain procedures are perceived as having greater social
skills and are more likeable, attractive and feminine.
The study is not superficial -- the
importance of facial appearance is rooted in evolution and studies
suggest that judging a person based on his or her appearance boils down
to survival. The results were published online today in
JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.
"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,"
says Michael J. Reilly, MD, an assistant professor of
otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at Georgetown University School of
Medicine who sees patients at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
Reilly and his colleagues set out
to evaluate and quantify the changes in personality perception that
occur after various types of facial rejuvenation surgery, including face
lift, upper and lower eye lifts, brow lift, neck lift and/or chin
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The study involved pre- and
postoperative photos of 30 Caucasian women and included survey responses
from 170 people. Respondents were asked to rate their perception of
attractiveness and femininity, and personality traits (extroversion,
likeability, social skills, risk-seeking behavior, aggressiveness and
trustworthiness) of each picture they reviewed. No reviewer saw both the
before and after photos of the same woman, and no one knew whether
plastic surgery had been performed.
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.
"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 says.
He says an earlier psychological
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," Reilly says.
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 explains. However, 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 says.
"The comprehensive evaluation and
treatment of the facial rejuvenation patient requires an understanding
of the changes in a person's perceived aura that are likely to occur
with surgery beyond just the traditional measures of age and
attractiveness," Reilly adds.
He points out that the study was
small and included only white female participants, 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. As we gain more
specific knowledge about what these changes in perception are, we will
be able to improve outcomes for our patients," Reilly concludes.
Reilly's co-authors include Jaclyn
A. Tomsic, MD, DMD, and Steven P. Davison, MD, DDS, of Georgetown's
School of Medicine and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and
Stephen J. Fernandez, MPH, of MedStar Health Research Institute.
The authors report having no
personal financial interests related to the study.
About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical
Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center
with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care
(through MedStar Health). GUMC's mission is carried out with a strong
emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit
principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The
Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing
& Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi
Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center
by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research
Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded
research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award
from the National Institutes of Health.
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