Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which is true… for the most part. Generally, there are accepted universal standards of beauty, especially facially. Healthy, symmetrical and faces that display sexual dimorphism (Welling, 2015 & Perrett, 2012) are considered universally attractive and signals to others evolutionary advantages as a potential mate. You can watch the TED talks below for more information.
Overall, this shapes an attractive person’s world’s view due to how society at large treats them, which is favourable, beauty does affect our behaviour and reaction to people (William et al, 2010 & Rhodes, 2006). There is a cognitive bias called the “Halo effect” where people attribute positive traits to a person due to a singular trait. This trait is usually attractiveness, essentially we treat people we find attractive better than non-attractive people, and even those associated with them. For example, in a study by Sigall and Landy (1973), when a male is shown to be associated with an attractive female their rating went up, when the male was shown to be associated with an unattractive female their rating went down.
In another study, the more attractive the defendant was, the less severe the sentence imposed (Stewart, 1980). A real-life story exemplifies the boon of being an attractive criminal. Jeremy Meeks’s (a convicted felon) mugshot went viral. This leads him to become a model and later on marry a rich heiress (Hosie, 2017). Many criminals post-prison/jail have a much harder time landing on their feet than Jeremy Meeks did.
Real-life examples can be seen of this Halo effect. Such as this interview experiment, where a beautiful girl is pitted against an ordinary girl for a receptionist position. Check out the difference, especially when it comes to compensation.
Or like in this social experiment on “What would you do?” where a black male, a white male and a pretty girl all steal a bike. The Halo effect can be seen in the pretty girl’s instance. She is given the benefit of a doubt before people started to call the police when she admits that she is stealing the bike. One guy outrights help her.
Society in part is to blame for the beauty premium. For example, Hollywood perpetuates the value of beauty over the value of the inner person time and time again. There are many movies about the difference in treatment of the beautiful vs the non-beautiful, or how our lives would be better if we just got prettier via makeover scenes. Society plays a part in confirming the value of beauty.
This has brought rise to “Lookism”. Simply, you are discriminated against based on how you look. There has been some thought to having this made into discrimination law, but it would be a hard one, because honestly who wants to admit that they are ugly in a courtroom? There is even a Manga call Lookism that looks at this differential treatment.
There have been many studies showing that beauty has an economic benefit and it certainly makes the picture for attractive people rosier. Vox has done a video on this topic and the podcast Freakonomics has a good episode on at http://freakonomics.com/podcast/reasons-to-not-be-ugly-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/
Of course, the Halo effect doesn’t always work and isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Attractive women are more likely not to be called back in an interview (if their photo is attached) and are harshly treated by other women in the workplace generally due to being seen as competition/jealousy (Workpolis, 2012).
We should all try to rid ourselves of these biases and personality does trump over the Halo Effect eventually as you get to know a person. In my personal experience, I’m guilty of I’ve been guilty of this myself of treating beautiful people better. I’ve paid more attention to what they say, get flustered around time and generally think they are better people than me but I don’t know that!
It takes time. The world is full of biases that are deep in our subconscious. Some we are aware of and some we are not. Let me know what your personal experience with the Beauty Bias is or not! I would love to hear them ☺
- Cunningham, M. R. (1986). Measuring the physical in physical attractiveness: Quasi-experiments on the sociobiology of female facial beauty. Journal of personality and social psychology, 50(5), 925.
- Hosie, R. (2017, June 19). The ‘hot felon’ is now a successful model. Retrieved from https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/hot-felon-jeremy-meeks-male-model-prison-milan-mens-fashion-week-new-york-a7796951.html
- Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1977). The halo effect: evidence for unconscious alteration of judgments. Journal of personality and social psychology, 35(4), 250.
- Stewart, J. E. (1980), Defendant’s Attractiveness as a Factor in the Outcome of Criminal Trials: An Observational Study1. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 10: 348-361. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1980.tb00715.x
- Sigall, H., & Landy, D. (1973). Radiating beauty: Effects of having a physically attractive partner on person perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28(2), 218.
- Rhodes, G. (2006). The evolutionary psychology of facial beauty. Annu. Rev. Psychol., 57, 199-226.
- G. William Lucker, William E. Beane & Robert L. Helmreich (1981) The Strength of the Halo Effect in Physical Attractiveness Research, The Journal of Psychology, 107:1, 69-75, DOI: 10.1080/00223980.1981.9915206
- Workpolis (2012) It’s official: Women don’t like beautiful women. Science says so. (2017, April 26). Retrieved from https://careers.workopolis.com/advice/its-official-women-dont-like-beautiful-women-science-says-so/