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Plast Reconstr Surg. 2012 Sep;130(3):455e-61e. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e31825dcb48.

The virtual focus group: a modern methodology for facial attractiveness rating.

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Division of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 92612, USA.



Traditional focus groups have been essential to facial aesthetics research. Although they are currently the criterion standard in acquiring facial attractiveness ratings, they retain many shortcomings. This study's objectives were twofold: to determine whether attractiveness scores obtained from a social network site correlate with those from the traditional focus group method; and to evaluate whether this methodology could be a superior tool in evaluating facial attractiveness.


Forty facial portraits were rated for attractiveness scores using three different subject recruitment methods: traditional live focus groups (n = 123 raters), Internet-based rating (n = 857 raters), and a novel method using a combination of focus groups and a social network site (i.e., Facebook) (n = 1775 raters). Each facial image was scored on a 10-point Likert scale. Regression analysis compared each approach to the traditional method.


The methods varied in terms of data accrual time, rater demographics/ages, researcher's accessibility, necessity for subject incentives, researcher labor, and rater effort/accuracy. A strong correlation (0.922) existed between the online social network-based rating and focus group method. A minimum of 992 raters achieved stabilization of the attractiveness scores using social network-based rating.


This study shows significant advantages to using a social network site-based method over both Internet-based rating and traditional focus groups for evaluating facial attractiveness. The main benefits include exponential increase in raters, minimized researcher time/labor, rater scores comparable to those of the focus group method, nonnecessity of rater monetary incentives, and selectable demographics/ages of raters.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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