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hygiene (Holt, Roberts, & Scully, 2000). Additionally, aging ... dental appearance (Kelly, et al., 2000, as cited by Frazer & Lindsay, 2001). This is supported by theĀ ...

Percepttrol and MotorSki[ls, 2003,96,43-48. O Perceptual and Motor Skills 2003

TOOTH COLOR: EFFECTS O N JUDGMENTS OF ATTRACTIVENESS AND AGE ' ALEXIS GROSOFSKY, SARAH ADKINS, ROBERT BASTHOLM, LEIF MEYER, LISA KRUEGER, JOSHUA MEYER, AND PETER TORMA Beloit College Sz~mrnary.-Tooth whitening has become a very popular procedure. Advertisements for whitening products imply that whiter reeth are more attractive than yellower teeth. We tested this idea empirically by manipulating the tooth color of pictures of male and female targets. Participants' ratings of attractiveness were not influenced by tooth color. Exp. 2 yielded a negative correlation between attractiveness and age ratings: targets judged to be older were rated as less attractive. Unless whiter teeth help in some other way, e.g., improved self-esteem or confidence, it seems that tooth whitening procedures or products are not associated with increased attractiveness to others.

Tooth discoloration is caused by a variety of factors such as smolung, drinking beverages that stain teeth, e.g., tea, coffee, red wine, and poor oral hygiene (Holt, Roberts, & Scully, 2000). Additionally, aging leads to changes in tooth color. Dental changes associated with aging tend to start occurring by the third decade resulting in yellowish or brownish discolorations of the teeth (McCarthy, 2001). Given Western culture's obsession with youth and beauty, it is not surprising that tooth whitening procedures have become increasingly popular. It has been estimated that 40% of the population is dissatisfied with their dental appearance (Kelly, et al., 2000, as cited by Frazer & Lindsay, 2001). This is supported by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry's report that whitening and laminates (also used to change tooth color) are two of the top five procedures performed on people (Hayt, 2000) and by Ianzito's (2001) estimate that people spend approximately 1.5 b~Uiondollars each year to alter the color of their teeth. While advertising claims about whiter teeth may convince consumers that these procedures w d result in increased attractiveness as well as a younger appearance, very little research has been done to investigate the influence of tooth color on people's perceptions of attractiveness. Dunn, Murchison, and Broome (1996) investigated the influence of multiple factors on perceptions of dental attractiveness. Their stimuli consisted of photographs of only smiles of males and females. Factors that varied across the smiles were 'We thank Dr. R. H. Gri sby and Candi Dilley for establishing the Vita shades of the tar ets' reeth. Address corresponknce to Alexis Grosofsky, Department of Psychology, Beloit ~ o l f e ~ e , 700 College Street, Beloit, WI 53511 or e-mail ([email protected]).



the number of teeth displayed, symmetry, height of max~Uarylip line, and tooth shade. A stepwise discriminant analysis suggested that tooth shade accounted for 61% of the variance in perceived attractiveness ratings for women's smiles and 77% of ratings for men's smiles. Reno, Sunberg, Block, and Bush (2000) followed Dunn, et al.'s lead (1996) and systematically manipulated factors they thought might influence perceptions of dentition. They used computer-generated images of mouths and manipulated two factors, gum color (adding blue, or red to the original picture) and tooth color (manipulated to be white, grayish white, or yellow). Participants performed three tasks; they selected the mouth they believed had the whitest teeth, the mouth with the healthiest appearance, and the mouth that was most attractive. Gum color did influence perception of tooth whiteness. The gum color necessary for increased perceptions of whiteness varied with the manipulated tooth color, but, in general, adding magenta to the gum color enhanced the perceived whiteness of the teeth. Interestingly, participants' judgments of which combination appeared healthiest and which most attractive were not always the same as their judgments of which appeared whitest. While we found limited research about the effects of tooth color on attractiveness, we found no research about the effects of tooth color on perceived age. As mentioned earlier, teeth begin to discolor as early as the third decade of Me (McCarthy, 2001). It seems reasonable to assume that individuals would be sensitive to this (perhaps not consciously) and would rate individuals w~chdscolored teeth as older than the same individuals with nondiscolored teeth. Henss (1991) found younger individuals were rated as more attractive than older individuals, particularly females. Thus, individuals with dscolored teeth may be perceived as older as well as less attractive. We manipulated tooth color in two experiments and asked participants to rate attractiveness as well as age of target individuals' photographs. Because we encounter a whole person in real life (not just a Cheshire-cat-he smile), we chose to use head-and-shoulder photographs rather than photographs of just mouths as had been used previously. We manipulated only tooth color because Dunn, et al.'s results (1996) showed this to be the most salient factor in attractiveness ratings. We predicted that targets with whiter teeth would be judged as more attractive and younger than versions of the same targets with teeth. Finally, we predicted there would be an inverse relation between age and attractiveness, with younger-appearing individuals receiving higher attractiveness ratings.


Method Participants.-The participants were 128 college students. Approximately 75% were women.



Materials.-Adobe Photoshop (Adobe Systems, Inc., 1989-1997) was used to create two versions showing just the face of a man from a magazine advertisement: an untouched photograph and one in which the teeth had been made yellower. The whiter teeth were Vita shade B1. The yellower teeth were Vita shade M. Procedure.-Participants were tested individually and randomly assigned to the yellower tooth group (n = 66) or the whiter tooth group (n = 62). Participants rated the attractiveness of the target individual on a scale with anchors of 1: very unattractive and 10: very attractive. In addition, participants estimated the age of the target.


Results and Discussion The mean attractiveness ratings for the target with whiter teeth (M= 5.8, SD= 1.7) and yellower teeth (M=6.1, SD= 1.4) were not significantly different (t,,, = - 1.25, p > .05). The mean age estimates (whiter: M =27.7, SD= 3.6; yellower: M = 28.3, SD= 3.4) also were not significant (t,,, = -0.94, p > .05). Age and attractiveness were not correlated (r,,, = .13, p > .05). Our results suggest that manipulating tooth color to make teeth whiter does not result in ratings for individuals as more attractive or younger appearing to others. There were, however, methodological lunitations that may have accounted for these results. Our target was a male model from a magazine advertisement rather than a "real" individual (with unretouched photographs). Also, results were not generalizable as only one male target individual was used. Dunn, et al.'s find~ngs(1996) that tooth color accounts for more variabhty in perceived attractiveness of women than of men suggested that changes in tooth color may be more important for women. Thus, we conducted a second experiment to address these concerns.

EXPERIMENT 2 Method Participants.-The participants were 132 college students (79 women, 53 men). Materials.-Two men and two women at a local grocery store allowed us to take photographs of them. The photographs were scanned into a comh cropped so the photograph was a z3/4-in. puter and each ~ h o t o ~ r a pwas (7-cm) x 3'/z-in. (9-cm) head-and-shoulder shot of the individual. Because initially the four targets had fairly white teeth, we manipulated tooth color by making their teeth yellower, similar to what the teeth might have looked like either prior to whitening or with aging. We wanted to avoid creating teeth so white they would be immedately detectable as fake because they would be unnaturally white, sometimes referred to as "laser white," "Hollywood white," "toilet-bowl white," or "refrigerator white7' (Ianzito, 2001).



Also, Reno, et al. (2000) found that the whitest teeth were not necessarily those judged most attractive or healthiest. Two versions of each photograph were produced, one with the original tooth color and one that had yellower teeth. We consulted a dentist to ensure that the yellower color was realistic. Table 1 shows the Vita shade guides for the original and transformed photographs. TABLE 1 VITASHADES O F ORIGINAL AND YELLOWED TEETH Target

Tooth Color Original Yellowed

Women Target 1 Target 2 Men

A2 A2

T . ~ ~ p c1 r

T ~ I ~ 2 C L


A4 A4





Procedure.-Particip~nts were tested individually and randomly assigned to stimulus color (or~glnalor yellowed). Each participant rated all four targets showing one color. Presentation order of targets followed a Latin square design to confound or spread evenly possible order effects. Results and Discussion Attractiveness.-The ratings for the original color (M=4.5, SD= 1.7) color (M=4.4, SD= 1.5) were not significantly different. and the There was also no main effect of participants' sex. Only the main effect of , women (M=5.1, SD = 1.5) being rated as more target sex was s p ~ f i c a n t the attractive than the men (M=3.7, SD= 1.4; F ,,,,= 135.96, p

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