How much do looks actually matter?

We hear this our whole lives; looks don’t matter, it is what is on the inside that counts! But how true is this notion? It seems people like to believe this is true, but will simultaneously turn someone down or immediately judge them for being unattractive. I agree that looks should not matter, and a person’s character should be measured by what they do, not what they look like. Unfortunately, this is not always what ensues even by people with good intentions. Generally, good-looking people date other good-looking people, and unattractive people date others in their own “league.” In the more rare instances where an attractive person is romantically linked with an unattractive person, people will poke fun and wonder how the unattractive individual managed to get with someone who is good-looking. So why do people continue to say, looks don’t matter?

Jay Z and Beyonce are arguably one of the most famous couples in entertainment. Many people tend to make jokes in regard to how much better looking Beyonce is than her spouse. They are an exception to the general trend of equal-attractiveness couples, and are also a great example of how people find the attractive-unattractive duo to be “odd.”

Physical attractiveness comes with unquestionable benefits, and not just getting free drinks at bars. Obviously unequal treatment based on appearance is not fair, but it is the blunt truth. Attractive individuals are generally thought to be “better” people based on the idea that they are more sensitive, sexually responsive, interesting, and sociable. (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012). They also are judged as being more competent and better with adjustment. All of these factors may increase the likelihood of success in many different areas of life. Physical attractiveness theory explains why this behavior occurs, and how there is a general expectation that attractive people will have better qualities than unattractive people (Schneider et al., 2012).

What are the effects of physical attractiveness theory? One example of how this can be problematic, is in employment. Studies have shown that attractive people are preferred in the workplace in comparison to unattractive counterparts. Two people (one attractive, and one unattractive) with the same exact qualifications applying for a job, should be equally considered. However, the interviewer without necessarily realizing it may prefer the more attractive individual solely based on the individual’s appearance. Unattractive people are not only less preferred than attractive people, but are statistically treated unfairly in general. There is evidence of unattractive people being rejected from job advancement, and are even considered to be more capable of engaging in criminal behavior (Schneider et al., 2012).

The biggest issue regarding the effects of physical attractiveness theory is the inaccuracy of judgement towards people. There is no evidence which suggests more attractive people are “better,” but that does not stop employers, and other individuals from perceiving that they are. This cognitive error likely has evolutionary roots, because generally there is a preference for attractive qualities when choosing a mate, reasons of fertility, etc.

So where does all of this come into play when choosing our intimate partners? There are a few explanations that have been developed by researchers regarding the influence of attractiveness in relationships. The matching phenomenon refers to the preference for individuals to choose long term partners that are of close or equal attractiveness (Schneider et al., 2012). Individuals with avoid aiming to high out of fear of rejection, and some may avoid aiming too low because they believe they can find a more suitable match. A study by Van Straaten, Engels, Finkenauer, and Holland (2009) researched the behavior of individuals in the presence of both attractive and unattractive confederates. Individuals confessed being more interested in dating confederates of similar attractivness, and not confederates of higher or lower attractiveness. The results of this study supported the matching phenomenon indicating that this is normally accurate.

So, we can assume with all of this information that looks do in fact matter. That being said, it is important to take your own physical appearance seriously, especially when interviewing for a job, going on a date, etc. While realizing that looks do matter, we should also keep in consideration that someone’s physical appearance is not a reliable indication for understanding the content of their character. One should always make an effort to understand an individual regardless of their appearance, before making potentially inaccurate judgments.



Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.

Van Straaten, I., Engles, R. C. M. E., Finkenauer, C., & Holland, R. W. (2009). Meeting your match: How attractiveness similarity affects approach behavior in mixed-sex dyads. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 685-697.


  1. Hilda V. Yacoubian


    We chose a similar approach to writing our blog posts this week. It definitely is unfortunate how much looks do in fact matter. We all fall prey to judging someone by their looks, whether we want to or not. Like you said, even people who have good intentions at heart exhibit this. But we also have to agree that it’s difficult to overlook, since it’s the first piece of information we are provided about someone new. The T-Shirt Study presented in our textbook really got me thinking about an intervention strategy that could actually help to decrease making first impression based solely on looks. Just to summarize the study, participants wrote a ‘personal ad’ on their t-shirts, including their name, major and some personal information or preferences. The goal of the participants was to talk to as many other individuals from the other sex as possible — kind of like speed dating. The researchers found that participants did not rely mostly on physical attractiveness when choosing who they would most like to date. Because they had additional information to go on, they didn’t need to make their judgements based off of looks alone. How we can apply these results to our technological world is to provide as much information as we can on our social media sites, where it is accessible without seeing each other’s pictures first. For example, instead of putting a selfie as our profile picture, we can choose one with a group of our friends and family, and then have some personal information written out in the ‘About’ section. This would allow others to have information other than our looks to based their opinions on and possibly create connections or friendships.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Kendall A Eimers

    We can both agree on the proposition indicating that unequal treatment associated with appearance is not fair, but it’s the truth. Society expresses an idealization of the latest fashion models and movie stars as inspirations for us to envisage naïve and fabricated perfectionism. Since we were little kids, we were constantly presented with a fascination for linking attractive appearances with people who tend to be famous or superior to most of the people we have met. As we grew older, we realized that attractive people surround us frequently. Undoubtedly, physical attractiveness encourages a heightened pervasiveness for receiving positive acknowledgement. Indeed, the way someone presents themselves is critical for achieving self-actualization. Some people are born less attractive than others, but they know how to present themselves. In some cases, arguably, they reflect a more spontaneous nature than someone who displays only scarce quality once you peel their layers away. Furthermore, it is crucial that someone knows how to take care of themselves regardless. Self-care is an essential component for living a healthy and successful life. Even if someone was not blessed with the most appealing outward appearance, they can still land a job or be a working part of society if they present themselves well through good character and proper self-management for their well-being. As you previously discussed – while realizing that looks do matter, we should also keep in consideration that someone’s physical appearance is not a reliable indication for fully understanding their character. Regardless of whether someone is attractive or not, it is important for everyone to keep a good heart, accept others for who they are, and understand that we are all made differently. Perfection is a distorted conception that does not exist. Therefore, we should always strive to freely express our inner selves in our own, unique way. Thanks for sharing your post!


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