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Nicotine enhances perceived attractiveness of faces in non-dependent smokers
Attwood et al.(1, pdf) investigated how nicotine affects the perceived attractiveness of faces among light smokers, i.e., those not dependent on nicotine. They had pictures of the faces of young adult men and young adult women judged for attractiveness by lightly smoking male and female college students who had been asked to not smoke for the past day. Compliance with this requirement was tested by examining the level of carbon monoxide exhaled by the participants before the test. When the participants were tested, they were either given a regular cigarette to smoke or a nicotine-free cigarette and then they were asked to rate the attractiveness of faces as well as answer some questions about their mood and how irritable they felt. Neither the participants nor those who administered the tests knew which participant had gotten what kind of cigarette.
The authors found that the judges, both men and women, rated faces more attractive after smoking the nicotine-containing cigarettes. Only 57% of the participants had correctly guessed that they received nicotine-containing cigarettes, which was not statistically significantly different from a random guess (50% correct). Whereas those that had been provided nicotine-containing cigarettes reported feeling less irritable, there were no differences between the two groups with respect to mood. This suggests that nicotine did not enhance facial attractiveness ratings by uplifting mood in general.
The authors cite research literature on animals showing that nicotine administration lowers the threshold for brain reward stimulation, apparently accounting for the more favorable appraisal of facial attractiveness after nicotine administration in humans.
- AS, Penton-Voak IS, Munafo MR. Effects of acute nicotine administration on ratings of attractiveness of facial cues. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. Jan 2009;11(1):44-48.