The trend to dress up during a downturn, does leave some interesting questions. In the majority of our fictional downturns (see my book review tab), people are walking around disheveled and generally all worn out looking. Should they be portrayed as being dressed to kill instead? Of course the vampires are already dressed to kill, but I mean this in the more figurative sense.
And why exactly is it that women send more on cosmetics during a downturn. One theory was that they want to cheer themselves up, but it looks like it comes down to deeper biological programing then that.
Lipstick, the Recession and Evolutionary Psychology
Sara Hill, Scientific American, 27 June 2012 (hat tip: Big Picture
While economic recessions are a recent development in human history, fluctuations in prosperity and resource availability are not. Human ancestors regularly went through cycles of abundance and famine, each of which favors different reproductive strategies. While periods of abundance favor strategies associated with postponing reproduction in favor of one’s own development (e.g., by pursuing an education), periods of scarcity favor more immediate reproduction. The latter strategy is more successful during times of resource scarcity because it decreases the likelihood that one will perish before having the chance to reproduce.
For women, periods of scarcity also decrease the availability of quality mates, as women’s mate preferences reliably prioritize resource access. This preference stems from the important role that mates’ resources have played in women’s reproductive success. Because economic recessions are associated with higher unemployment and minimal or negative returns on investments, news of a recession may therefore signal to women that financially secure men—those able to invest resources in rearing offspring—are becoming scarce...
Furthermore, we discovered that the lipstick effect and a woman’s desire to attract a mate with resources are unrelated to her independent resource access. Women of both higher and lower socioeconomic status expressed an increased desire to buy luxury beauty products when primed with recession cues. This suggests that an uncertain economic climate leads women to heighten mate attraction effort irrespective of their own resource need.
|Sarah Hill, Texas Christian University (from here)|
Since virtual girlfriends will wear the best lipstick that software can provide them with, does this mean that they will be relatively more attractive in times of plenty? Note that Ms. Hill's paper on the subject is here (pdf).