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Good looks sell

Brendan Cox | The Gateway (University of Alberta) | News | February 4th, 2008



EDMONTON (CUP) -- Consumers are more interested in buying clothes that are being promoted by attractive salespeople, according to a new study from the University of Alberta.

Jennifer Argo at the university's school of business, specializing in social influence, led the study which demonstrated that people are more eager to buy a shirt after it has been worn by someone that they are attracted to.

Argo and her colleagues asked 300 people to try on a T-shirt at the University of Alberta Bookstore. In the first part of the study, participants were told to try on a specific shirt only to be told by a researcher disguised as a salesperson that the last available shirt of that kind was already being tried on by someone else. Half the time the person trying the shirt on was a model, and half the time the person was of average attractiveness.

In every case, the participants observed the person leaving the change room and were then asked to evaluate the shirt. If the participants saw an average-looking person with the shirt, they expressed little interest in the shirt. If, however, the shirt had been worn by a model, the shirt was more attractive to them and they were willing to pay more for it.

“The explanation that we can draw from our research is that people want to get the ‘essence' of that other attractive person,” Argo said.

In the second part of the study, male subjects were again told to try on a specific shirt. Half the time a female salesperson of average appeal told the subject that she had worn the shirt on her last shift, and half the time a beautiful salesperson told them the same. Sometimes the shirt was shown to the subject on a hanger to suggest that it had not been washed, and other times the shirt was in a dry-cleaning bag.

The male subjects admired the shirt more when it was unwashed after being worn by a beautiful female.

“Our studies have only been with clothes so I can't say whether it would be the same with pens or something, but there is a sort of intimacy that's desired. A shirt is pulled over your head, and is close to your skin; that sort of touch is more desired when it's linked to someone attractive,” Argo said.
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