Do pretty waitresses really get higher tips?

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 19, 2009

Do pretty waitresses get higher tips? Researchers at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration want to know. Why? Because it may affect hiring decisions. The researchers claim in their recent study that evolutionary theory suggests that attractive women should receive higher tips than less attractive women.

To test this theory, the researcher recruited more than 400 restaurant waitresses to complete an online survey, asking them to rate their physical attractiveness, sexiness, age, bra size, hair color, waist size, weight, and average tip percentage.

The findings (or how to increase your tips if you’re a waitress):

1.) Blondes reported receiving larger percentage tips than did waitresses with other hair colors, as expected.
However, the blond waitresses in this study did not perceive themselves to be more attractive than the waitresses with other hair colors.

2.) Women with large breasts and/or slender bodies received larger average tips than their counterparts without these characteristics.

More surprisingly:

3.) Tips increased with age with the largest tips going to women in their thirties.

The author’s analysis:

Perhaps the male restaurant customers were most attracted to the waitresses in their late teens and early twenties as expected, but tipped the waitresses who were in their thirties more than those who were younger because they thought they had a better chance of picking-up the older waitresses. Alternatively, the majority of the male customers in this study, whose average age was probably greater than 35 years old, may have been most attracted to waitresses in their men age, they prefer women increasing younger than themselves, but nonetheless prefer increasingly older women in an absolute sense….. Given that the median age in the U.S. is 35 years old and that median age of paying restaurant customers is almost certainly even older,….most of the men is this study may have preferred women in their thirties, which is the age group among waitresses that received the largest tips.

4.) WHR (waist-to-hip ratio) was unrelated to tips in this study. Thick-waisted women were just as likely to get big tips.

The analysis:

Perhaps the effects of WHR on perceptions of physical attractiveness are too small to affect more overt behaviors… Alternatively, the failure to find a WHR effect on tipping may be due to the possibility that the waitresses’ clothing obscured their WHRs to their tipping customers.

The study has several weaknesses. First, it relies on women’s self-reports of their attractiveness, which is always tricky. More importantly, the study didn’t attempt to assess is a waitress’s effectiveness at doing her job. One would think competence and friendliness would would be stronger factors. (Which is most important — competence, friendliness, or looks? Fodder for another study?) Nor did it take into account other variables: venue, uniforms, and customer base. Did the study consider the fact that many customers may be (straight) women?

I, for one, don’t care if my waitress has big breasts or blond hair. I just want my food.

Damsel in distress? Go blond.

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 12, 2009

Do blondes get picked up more than brunettes? The question can be taken literally, as evidenced in psychologist Nicolas Gueguen’s latest study* on female hitchhikers. A specialist in the nuances of courtship and attraction, Gueguen wanted to know if a woman is more likely to be offered a ride or other assistance if she goes blond. All else being equal, do light-haired hitchhikers get more lifts?

Gurguen recruited five women in their early twenties (all natural brunettes) to stand, one at a time, by the side of a road popular with hitchhikers in France. Their job was to try to get motorists to pull over. Each woman was equipped with three wigs, blond, brunette, and black, which she was instructed to rotate every time forty cars had passed. When a car stopped, she (and two independent observers) kept a record of what color wig she was wearing and whether the driver was male or female.

Drivers prefer blondes, it turns out. Blond hair, compared with brown or black hair, inspired a statistically larger proportion of drivers to stop and offer assistance (18% for blondes vs 14% and 13% for brunettes and women with black hair respectively). Interestingly, this was true only of male drivers. Female drivers, who stopped less frequently for hitchhikers, showed no hair color bias.

Gueguen attributes a greater attractiveness of blond hair color to men’s willingness to help blondes. As described in BLONDES, blond hair may be associated with female youth, health, and fertility. Because fair-haired hitchhikers may appear younger, they may come across as more vulnerable or less of a threat.

Blond hair is also more eye-catching than other shades, so drivers may be more likely to notice blond hitchhikers. But why would more male than female drivers offer rides to blondes if sexual attraction didn’t have something to do with it?

For various reasons, slightly more drivers appear to prefer blondes. But are they gentlemen? That remains in question.

Nicolas Gueguen’s studies are good fun. In BLONDES I reported on his fascinating research on the power of touch in a courtship context. I’ve also blogged about Gurguen’s studies on whether makeup is more likely to attract men; whether dog owners attract more dates (and whether breed makes a difference); how priming men to think about love changes their behavior; whether asking a woman a small favor makes her more likely to give him her number later; and whether cup size helps a female hitchhikers get picked up.

* to be published in Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2009, 109, 3, 1-8.

Did Tiger win by cheating? Hint: testosterone

Posted in news by jenapincott on December 3, 2009

Earlier this year, I wrote about Tiger Woods after he lost the World Gold Championship. My theory — perhaps a stretch — was that Tiger’s testosterone was down. He said he had been spending a lot of time with his pregnant wife Elin and their two-year-old daughter. In February Elin gave birth to a son.

All this downtime on the homefront suggests, at least to this observer, that Tiger was hormonally challenged. In the months preceding and following a baby’s birth, fathers’ testosterone levels are lower. Lower testosterone levels make a man less aggressive, less focused, less competitive — and more agreeable and responsive. High testosterone levels have the opposite effect.

Later this year Tiger rebounded to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, the WGB-Bridgestone Invitational, the BMW Championship, and the 2009 Presidents Cup this. And now it emerges that during all this winning he had been cheating — on his wife.

Is there a connection here? Again, it may be a stretch, but did Tiger’s philandering contribute to a testosterone surge that helped his game? Lots of illicit sex, after all, could be linked to high testosterone levels. So did cheating help him win? Or did his success and the resulting testosterone-high spur him to cheat?

Or was it a vicious cycle: cheating leading to winning leading to cheating, and so on?


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