Do Looks Matter?

Physical attractiveness has long been a praised attribute within humanity.  Consider the artwork dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks, we see beautiful sculptures and other works of art that depict an ideal human form.  Sure enough, the appreciation of attractiveness is still prevalent in modern society.  We enjoy looking at people with physical characteristics that we find aesthetically appealing, mostly because humans are visual creatures.  We base our first impressions of people from their appearance, we use physical attractive people in advertisements, and we tend to put attractive celebrities on a pedestal.  In some cases, the draw to physical attractiveness goes beyond what the eyes are drawn to.  There is a bias towards physical attractiveness that assumes people who possess physically attractive characteristics are perceived to be “better people” (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012).

A study conducted by Dion, Berscheid, & Walster (1972) was the first to infer that people associated physical attractiveness with positive traits such as being sociable, interesting, competent, and well-adjusted.  Other studies have followed, and confirmed that attractive people are more likely to be associated with good qualities, whereas unattractive people are more likely to be associated with bad qualities.  These assumptions have thus created the physical attractiveness stereotype.  This is a powerful stereotype that extends into occupational settings, and assumptions about criminal behavior in legal proceedings (Schneider et al., 2012).

In occupational settings, Tsai, Huang & Yu (2012) found that physical attractiveness was positively associated with better interviewer evaluations.  So much so, that it was more effective over “applicant verbal content, qualifications, and other demographic variables”.  These results were also stronger in occupational settings where job tasks were focused around customer service or client engagement.  While this particular study notes that certain interviewers and occupations play into the physical attractiveness stereotype, it’s important to note that in a professional setting looks do matter to a certain degree, without intentionally following this stereotype.  Despite physical attractiveness, personal hygiene and grooming paired with appropriate attire leads people to view an individual as more professional, competent and independent.  It’s important to distinguish between the two.

In conclusion, people need to be aware that their evaluation of someone could be due to a subconscious judgement of their physical attractiveness.  There is no evidence to date that shows that attractive people are “better” than someone with average physical attributes (Schneider et al., 2012).  Positive character attributes were measured between physically attractive people and average people, and there were no indications that one group fared better than the other in those qualities.  Needless to say, looks matter to an extent, but be wary of judging someone entirely by their appearance.


Dion, K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24, 285– 290. doi:10.1037/h0033731

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Tsai, W., Huang, T., & Yu, H. (2012). Investigating the unique predictability and boundary conditions of applicant physical attractiveness and non-verbal behaviours on interviewer evaluations in job interviews: Physical attractiveness & non-verbal behaviours. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 85(1), 60-79. doi:10.1348/2044-8325.002003

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