A study published in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal investigates the association between facelift surgery and observer perception. From January to June of 2016, a web-based survey was conducted where casual observers were asked to view independent images of females either before or after surgery.
The survey participants were asked to estimate the age of the patient, and to rate the image in terms of attractiveness, perceived success and overall health. From 483 respondents who completed the survey, the post-facelift images received higher rankings and were seen as more attractive, more successful and healthier.
Moreover, the age estimates given by the observers were significantly lower than the actual age of the patients. This also ties in with the much-discussed ‘halo effect’—where the attractiveness of people is unconsciously associated with happiness and success, leading to advantages in jobs, political candidacy or even judicial leniency (!).
But before readers start booking their appointments with a plastic surgeon, there are things to keep in mind: the study had a distinct bias, where the pre- and post-op images were all female, and that most of the respondents were also women.
Perceptions and ratings may change if the survey was more inclusive gender-wise, with respect to images used and participants. Also, what if the respondent knew that the image was post-surgery—would the perception (and subsequently) the ratings change?