Physical attractiveness

How our appearance affects our psychological perception 


Physical attractiveness.


Most of us recognize that people who have pleasing physical appearance have advantages in social interactions. However, recent studies have shown that we underestimate these advantages. Reactions to attractive people seem to include a clicky, buzzy element. Like all reactions of this type, it is automatic. Sociologists categorize this reaction as a so-called halo effect. The halo effect occurs when one positive characteristic feature of a person catches the eye of those around him or her, as it were, pushing all his or her other qualities into the background. Psychologists have obtained evidence that physical attractiveness is often just such a characteristic trait.


Studies have shown that we automatically attribute positive qualities such as talent, kindness, honesty, intelligence to individuals who have a pleasant appearance.


Moreover, we are not aware of the important role that physical attractiveness plays in our perception of people. The implications of the subconscious assumption that "beautiful form equals beautiful content" sometimes frighten me. For example, in an analysis of the 1974 Canadian federal election, it was found that outwardly attractive candidates received two and a half times as many votes as unattractive candidates. However, additional research showed that voters were not aware of their bias against politicians. 73% of Canadian voters, whose attitudes had been the subject of study by psychologists, denied in the strongest terms that their choice had been influenced by the physical attractiveness of the candidates; only 14% admitted to such an influence. Voters may deny that the candidates' physical appearance matters to them, but the facts prove that it does not.


A similar effect is observed in the hiring process. In one study, appearance and demeanor mattered more in job interviews than professional appearance - even though all employers say looks don't matter to them. The advantage of employees with good looks also extends to pay. Studies among Canadian and American employees show that employees with a good appearance are paid on average 12-14% more than their unsympathetic colleagues.


A similar result was obtained in a study that determined how important the appearance of applicants for any responsible position was. During the simulated interviews, employers paid more attention to the appearance of applicants than to their work skills. And the interviewers claimed that appearance had little or no influence on their decision.


Another study showed that judges' decisions were largely influenced by the appearance of defendants. As it now turns out, people who have a pleasing appearance have a better chance of leniency from jurists. An interesting study was conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania. This study evaluated the physical attractiveness of 74 male defendants. A study of court records found that handsome men received less harsh sentences. In fact, attractive defendants were twice as likely to avoid imprisonment as unattractive defendants.


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