We are canvases for social signals

Let’s talk about cosmetics and body modifications as social signals. We all feel that body decoration is an everyday pursuit. Naturally, from a very young age, we are bound to the biased assumption of “what is beautiful is good”. We tend to associate positive features in one’s character with an attractive appearance. But actually, adornment is an auxiliary for signaling status. This bias is a great indicator of one’s social competence, even in a more efficient way than to the perception of one’s cognitive abilities.

And indeed, the cosmetics industry is selling with immense profits each year. In the US alone it generates millions of dollars. Tattoos and piercings are popular too, mostly with youngsters, more than 30% of college students in the US in 2001. People use grooming, make-up, tattooing and piercing to modify their appearance and try to create a comparative advantage over others. Using these adornments makes one feel more attractive, vibrant, and self-confident. Tattooed and pierced people are seen as liberal independent and adventurous characters.

However, taking foppishness to the extreme is in fact an absurd sight. A covert cue that is swept away to being overtly displayed, loses its power and ridicules that individual. It may be presenting a person’s character as gross, aggressive, or untrusty. 

As cosmetics and body modifications are moderately handled, these fine beautifications are a form of self-marketing to communicate one’s identity and status, and in turn, affect competence in a given situation. Putting it in other words, spending on beauty items and body modifications generate payoffs.

Tech Entrepreneur, co-founder of SubStrata Technologies

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