Beauty Pays

A beautiful smile in a magazine ad, a pair of seductive eyes in a commercial, a perfectly shaped nose on the barista that works down the street at the local coffee shop.  We have all experienced someone we consider attractive.  According to a article entitled, “Scientists Identify 3 Reasons Why Attractive People Make More Money” Drake Baer discusses recent findings that attractive people earn approximately 12% more than unattractive people.  This phenomena has been coined “the beauty premium”.

The study found that employers see more attractive people as also being more capable, more confident and as having better social skills.  But why?  Schneider, Gruman & Coutts (2012) believes that the human reliance on attractiveness is a form of primacy effect, meaning that information that is first received or presented to us gives the most influence in our opinion.

This tendency for bias is supported by Dion, Berscheid, and Walster (1972) who also found that people associate physical attractiveness with other positive traits, judging them to be better people altogether.  Assumptions such as these are called the physical attractiveness stereotype (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).  There have been a multitude of studies conducted to compare traits and attractiveness and none have found any significance in attractive people possessing “better” qualities (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).

So how can this information help?  It is important to understand that while attractiveness isn’t the most important feature of another person, and is certainly driven by culture, looks should be taken seriously -especially in situations that involve being evaluated (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).  However, it is possible to become attractive to another simply by being in similar situations or by having mutual interests (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).  Festinger, Schachter, & Black (1950) found that attraction increased simply by being physically close.  Moreland & Zajonc (1982) found that frequent interaction increased “perceived similarity”.  People are more concerned with matching attractiveness, also known as the matching phenomenon (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).  This can be interpreted to mean that employers are judging based on how they feel about their own looks.  Again, attractiveness is all relative.

In American culture, we value those who are individualistic, and are admired by others (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).  To beat the bias, there are several things one can do.  Immerse themselves in situations that put them in an attractive light and increase interactions with those that one wants to associate themselves with in order to to provide other options for evaluation aside from looks.  For example, perhaps begin frequenting coffee shops or restaurants that your boss enjoys.  Try striking up a conversation that involves pastimes or interests of your supervisors.  Become admirable in the office by excelling at your work.  This idea can be extended into other areas of life such as friendships, romantic relationships, etc.


Baer, D. (2014, November 10). Scientists Identify 3 Reasons Why Attractive People Make More Money. Retrieved November 17, 2014, from

Schneider, F.W., Gruman, J.A., & Coutts, L.M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (Second ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

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  1. Lauren Mary Albertson

    I find the information in your blog post generally disheartening and yet perceivably true. The increase and need for plastic surgery, as well as thriving profits in the diet and beauty industry more than prove the desire for people to be perceived as beautiful. I always felt that the saying beauty is in the eye of the beholder was a true statement, but I now feel that more and more concepts and ideals of beauty are influenced by the media. If it were simply by general appearance, ideals of beauty would not change so much from one decade to the next. I like that you included ways to beat the bias and these concepts make a lot of sense. It makes sense that one would think more of someone else that shared similar interests, or due to physical desire to be close to others it makes sense that proximity would also play a role. This could possibly be another reason why long distance relationships do not work out for many people.

  2. Anthony Theodore Panchella


    Eagly, A. H., Ashmore, R. D., Makhijani, M. G., & Longo, L. C. (1991). What is beautiful is good, but…: A meta-analytic review of research on the physical attractiveness stereotype. Psychological Bulletin, 110(1), 109-128.

    Heilman, M.E., & Stopeck, M.H. (1985). Attractiveness and corporate success: Different causal attributions for males and females. Journal of Applied Psychology, 70, 379-388.

  3. Anthony Theodore Panchella

    People’s perceptions are formed using a complicated calculus. It is unfortunate that people judge others on the basis of their looks, but as the saying goes “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Studies show there are differences in the way people judge attractive and unattractive people. Those differences were “largest for indexes of social competence; intermediate for potency, adjustment, and intellectual competence; and near zero for integrity and concern for others” (Eagly, Ashmore, Makhijani, & Longo,1991). The physical attractiveness stereotype was also found to be highly variable depending on numerous factors. In essence, attractiveness affected “the eye of the beholder” in different ways, and for different reasons.

    One of those differences is gender. According to Heilman & Stopeck (1985), people judge attractive females and attractive males differently, and when people were asked why men or women were successful in business, “males’ ability attributions were enhanced by their good looks and females’ ability attributions were detrimentally affected by them.” Essentially, good looking males were thought to be successful because of their business acumen; however, good looking females were thought to be successful primarily because of their beauty. As you mentioned in your blog, the reason for these judgments were due to various faulty attributions. Advertisements and media associating beauty with good things may be a reason people make these skewed judgments. This is clearly a problem that could be addressed with an applied social psychology intervention.

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