Bronze is Beautiful but Pale can be Pretty: The Effects of Appearance Standards and Mortality Salience on Sun-Tanning Outcomes

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death, mortality salience, terror management, tanning, health, appearance standards, attractiveness

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Using the terror management health model (J. L. Goldenberg & J. Arndt, 2008), the authors examined tanning outcomes as a function of priming tanning-relevant standards for attractiveness after reminders of death. Design: Study 1 consisted of 101 female college students recruited from a midwestern university; Study 2 consisted of 53 female participants recruited from a beach in south Florida. In both experiments, participants answered questions about their mortality or a control topic, and were presented with a fashion article that highlighted either the attractiveness of tanned (just in Study 1), pale, or natural-looking skin. Main Outcome Measures: Self-reported suntan intentions (Study 1) and sunscreen intentions (Study 2). Study 2 also assessed participants’ interest in various sun protection products. Results and Conclusions: Study 1 demonstrated that mortality salience led to higher tanning intentions when the association between tanned skin and physical attractiveness was made salient and reduced intentions when the attractiveness of paler skin was highlighted. In Study 2, beachgoers, after reminders of death, reported greater preference for high sun protection sunscreen after reading an article about the attractiveness of paler skin tones. These findings contribute to an emerging understanding of how mortality concerns can influence health-related judgment and behavior.

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Health Psychology, v. 28, p. 746-752