A study of 297 women aged from 27 to 65 years found that they were more motivated to persist with special diets, vitamins, creams, Botox or plastic surgery if they believed these had so far failed to make them look significantly younger.
The researchers, Professor Brett Martin and Dr Rana Sobh, found that women who used these means to look younger were trying to avoid a 'feared self' – an image of themselves they had of appearing wrinkled and old.
They have found that when women want to avoid this feared self, they kept trying if they perceive themselves to be failing, but as soon as they began to succeed their anxiety lessened and they stopped trying.
Professor Martin, of the University of Bath, UK, and Dr Sobh, of Qatar University, found that of those women who felt that the treatments they were taking were not working, 73 per cent wanted to continue using them. Among those women who felt the treatments were working, only 45 per cent wanted to continue.
"This study is more evidence for the belief that when someone is thinking negatively about themselves, and they try and fail to improve their situation, they will be motivated to try again," said Dr Sobh, of Qatar University's College of Business.
"How women imagine themselves in the future has a strong effect on how motivated they are to keep using a product or service such as creams or other treatments for ageing.
"When people dwell on a negative future, they are motivated by fear, yet as they move away from this feared state – say a wrinkled skin – they become less motivated to carry on using a product or service."
Professor Martin, who has carried out a study on men and women using gyms, said: "This doesn't just apply to women – men have a similar psychology about using a gym to get fit and look good."
Professor Martin said that as people became happier with their bodies, so they entered a more positive frame of mind. In this state, they became more strongly motivated by success and not by failure, as before, something the researchers believe marketers should bear in mind when selling their products.
Of the 297 women in the study, in the previous year:
About this article: This information courtesy of University of Bath. December 2008
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