The University of Sussex

Psycho-social pressures toward otoplasty in childhood and adolescence: some surprising age and sex effects

Stephanie Thornton, Jilly Alexander

Although otoplasty is a common procedure in childhood, little is known of the factors leading patients to seek this surgery. Popular belief is that prominent ears incur social problems, which can be solved by correcting the ears. However, there are no studies examining this assumption. Currently available data suggest instead that there is a strong element of psychopathology associated with seeking otoplasty in childhood. This study tests the proposition that there are social costs attached to having prominent ears. Computer morphing techniques were used to vary the degree of ear prominence on photographed faces. Independent groups of subjects aged 6 years to adult rated different versions of the photograph. Results show that there are social costs attached to having prominent ears, but that these vary significantly with age and gender. This underlines the need for a more differentiated policy in dealing with otoplasty patients.

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