Physical attractiveness stereotype

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The physical attractiveness stereotype is a tendency, described by psychologists, to assume that people who are physically attractive also possess other socially desirable personality traits. Stereotyping is the process by which we draw inferences about others based on knowledge of the categories to which they belong.[1]


Studies[2][3] have found that Western people are more willing to listen to and believe people who are judged, by conventional standards, to be aesthetically attractive.

In less-individualistic cultures, beautiful people are assumed to have traits that those cultures value, such as concern for others, loyalty and integrity.[2] Regarding the perception of beauty in the East, Wheeler and Kim [4] found that university students in Korea saw beautiful people as more trustworthy and concerned for others. But they did not share the North American university students' bias towards perceiving beautiful people as more self-assertive and dominant than less attractive people. This can be seen in myths and fairy tales as well as films throughout history: the 'goodies' are young and beautiful, whereas the 'baddies' are ugly. Previous studies have found a recognition bias for information consistent with the physical attractiveness stereotype[5]

The stereotype acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy where the perception of attractive people as more valuable members of society leads to their receiving preferential treatment, positive feedback and tangible benefit.[6] Studies[7] have found that attractiveness does correlate positively with some traits such as personal income, social skills and self-confidence. This cognitive bias could be considered to be a specific kind of halo effect.

Physical attractiveness can have a significant effect on how people are judged in terms of employment or social opportunities, friendship, sexual behavior, and marriage.[8] In many cases, humans attribute positive characteristics, such as intelligence and honesty, to attractive people without consciously realizing it.[2] Physically attractive individuals are regarded more positively and accurately in first impressions, however the physical attractiveness stereotype will have bias opinions and decisions when comparing people of different attractiveness levels.[9]

A study done by Pfeifer noted a positive correlation between physical appearance and wages. More attractive people are, on average, more likely to be employed and have a higher wage than their normal counterpart. According to this study, the estimated effects of the interviewer rating, generally, have a larger impact on men than for on women, while self-ratings (of attractiveness) have a larger effect on women than on men. However, in this study, the rating from others (in this case, the interviewer) have a larger effect than self-rating. "The wage effects of attractiveness are nonlinear for men, which implies that wage punishment for unattractiveness is larger than wage premium for attractiveness, and linear for women."

Studies show that teachers perceive attractive children as more intellectual, more engaged in school and more likely to succeed academically than unattractive children. This is because teachers have been shown to have more positive interactions with attractive children.[10] In addition other studies show that customers' perceptions of quality of service is boosted by physical attractiveness.[11]

In certain instances, physical attractiveness is distinct from sexual attraction; humans may regard the young as attractive for various reasons, for example, but without sexual attraction.

Women, on average, tend to be attracted to men who are slightly taller and who have a relatively narrow waist and broad shoulders. Men, overall, tend to be attracted by women who are slightly shorter, have a youthful appearance and exhibit features such as a symmetrical face, full breasts, full lips, and a low waist-hip ratio.[12][13]

Generally, physical attraction is dependent on three factors: universal perceptions common to all human cultures, cultural and social aspects, and individual subjective preferences. Despite universally held perceptions of beauty in both sexes, males tend to place significantly higher value on physical appearance in a partner than women do.[14][15]

Beauty premium phenomenon[edit]

Studies show that a better physical appearance contributes to the belief of a person being better, smarter, more successful, more important, and more valuable:

  • The scores of those physically attractive are higher than less physically attractive people on measures of affect and mood.[16]
  • People tend to believe attractive people as smarter, more successful, more sociable, more dominant, sexually warmer, mentally healthier and higher in self-esteem than physically unattractive people.[17][page needed]
  • Physically attractive people are more sociable and less socially anxious and lonely than less physically attractive people.[18]
  • Physically attractive people are more popular than less attractive people and people are more likely to have an interaction with people who are physically attractive.[18]
  • Individuals are more likely to give personal information to physically attractive people than less physically attractive people.[19]
  • A physically attractive person is more likely to be reinforced than a less attractive person.[20]
  • Physically unattractive people with psychological disturbances are judged to be more maladjusted and to have a poorer prognosis than physically attractive people with the same psychological disturbance.[21]
  • A physically attractive person is more likely to be found less guilty than a less attractive person while they are charged with the same crime.[22]
  • Physically unattractive defendants are considered to be more dangerous than physically attractive offenders in sex-related crimes.[23]
  • Physically attractive individuals found guilty of a particular crime are more likely to receive more generous sentences than less physically attractive defendants.[24]
  • People pay more attention to physically attractive strangers than to unattractive strangers of either sex. For example, people avoided sitting next to people with physical deformities.[25]
  • People with facial disfigurements and other flaws are seen as less desirable. Even babies seem to prefer physically attractive faces to physically unattractive ones.[26]


Reactions to beauty may lead to interpersonal tension and conflict. For example, people may attribute greater negative and egocentric traits to them due to envy.[20] Extremely attractive individuals may be refused by their own sex type who are envious of them.[27] Attractive people are often confused with whether people are attracted to their appearance or their inner qualities. They are also more likely to rely on their looks than on their other attributes.[28] A review of literature [29] illustrates that attractive males experience much greater social and economic advantages than attractive females. Attractive females commonly face a hostile work environment with female supervisors and female coworkers - unless the attractive female is employed in a low-status position. Initially, both males and females (of average attractiveness) suspect attractive females of being intellectually inferior, but not so of attractive males. Attractive females are placed in a social position in which they must demonstrate above average competence. Attractive males are not challenged in this manner.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Schacter, D. (2012) Introducing Psychology. New York, NY: Worth Publishers
  2. ^ a b c Dion, K.; Berscheid, E.; Walster, E. (1972). "What is beautiful is good". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 24 (3): 285–290. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/h0033731. PMID 4655540.
  3. ^ Miller, Arthur G. (1970). "Role of physical attractiveness in impression formation". Psychonomic Science. 19 (4): 241–243. doi:10.3758/BF03328797.
  4. ^ Wheeler, Ladd; Kim, Youngmee (1997). "What is Beautiful is Culturally Good: The Physical Attractiveness Stereotype has Different Content in Collectivistic Cultures". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 23 (8): 795–800. doi:10.1177/0146167297238001.
  5. ^ Rohner, Jean-Christophe; Rasmussen, Anders (2012). "Recognition bias and the physical attractiveness stereotype". Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. 53 (3): 239–246. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9450.2012.00939.x. PMID 22416805.
  6. ^ Hamermesh, Daniel S.; Biddle, Jeff E. (1994). "Beauty and the Labor Market". The American Economic Review. 84 (5): 1174–1194. doi:10.3386/w4518. JSTOR 2117767.
  7. ^ Berscheid, E.; Walster, E. (1969). Interpersonal Attraction, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  8. ^ Lorenz, Kate. (2005). "Do Pretty People Earn More?"
  9. ^ Lorenzo, G. L.; Biesanz, J. C.; Human, L. J. (2010). "What Is Beautiful Is Good and More Accurately Understood: Physical Attractiveness and Accuracy in First Impressions of Personality" (PDF). Psychological Science. 21 (12): 1777–1782. doi:10.1177/0956797610388048. PMID 21051521. Archived from the original on 2013-03-23.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  10. ^ Byrnes, D. A. (1988). "Overcoming student stereotypes about physical attractiveness". The Education Digest. 53 (9): 32. ISSN 0013-127X.
  11. ^ Luoh, Hsiang-Fei; Tsaur, Sheng-Hshiung (2009). "Physical attractiveness stereotypes and service quality in customer–server encounters". The Service Industries Journal. 29 (8): 1093–1104. doi:10.1080/02642060902764517.
  12. ^ Tall men 'top husband stakes'. (2002). BBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2009.
  13. ^ Nettle, D. (2002). "Women's height, reproductive success and the evolution of sexual dimorphism in modern humans" (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 269 (1503): 1919–1923. doi:10.1098/rspb.2002.2111. PMC 1691114. PMID 12350254. Archived from the original on 2016-03-10.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  14. ^ Buss, David (2003) [1994]. The Evolution of Desire (hardcover) (second ed.). New York: Basic Books. pp. 57, 58, 60–63.
  15. ^ Dubner, Stephen J. (July 9, 2007). "The Science of Large Breasts, and Other Evolutionary Verities". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  16. ^ Umberson, D.; Hughes, M. (1987). "The impact of physical attractiveness and achievement and psychological well-being". Social Psychology Quarterly. 50 (3): 227–236. doi:10.2307/2786823. JSTOR 2786823.
  17. ^ R.B. Cialdini, (1984). The psychology of persuasion. New York: Quill William Morrow.
  18. ^ a b Feingold, Alan (March 1992). "Good-looking people are not what we think". Psychological Bulletin. 111 (2): 304–341. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.111.2.304.
  19. ^ Brundage, L. E.; Derlega, V. J.; Cash, T. F. (1976). "The Effects of Physical Attractiveness and Need for Approval on Self-Disclosure". Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 3 (1): 63–66. doi:10.1177/014616727600300108.
  20. ^ a b Gallucci, N. T.; Meyer, R. G. (1984). "People can be too Perfect: Effects of Subjects' and Targets' Attractiveness on Interpersonal Attraction". Psychological Reports. 55 (2): 351–360. doi:10.2466/pr0.1984.55.2.351.
  21. ^ Cash, T.F.; Kehr, J.A.; Polyson, J.; Freeman, V. (1977). "Role of physical attractiveness in peer attribution of psychological disturbance". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 45 (6): 987–993. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.45.6.987.
  22. ^ Efran, M.G. (1974). "The effect of physical appearance on the judgment of guilt, interpersonal attraction, and severity of recommended punishment in simulated jury task". Journal of Research in Personality. 8: 45–54. doi:10.1016/0092-6566(74)90044-0.
  23. ^ Esses, Victoria M.; Webster, Christopher D. (1988). "Physical Attractiveness, Dangerousness, and the Canadian Criminal Code". Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 18 (12): 1017–1031. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1988.tb01190.x.
  24. ^ DeSantis, A.; Kayson, W.A. (1997). "Defendants' characteristics of attractiveness, race, and sex and sentencing decisions". Psychological Reports. 81 (2): 679–683. doi:10.2466/pr0.1997.81.2.679.
  25. ^ Houston, V.; Bull, R. (1994). "Do people avoid sitting next to someone who is facially disfigured?". European Journal of Social Psychology. 24 (2): 279–284. doi:10.1002/ejsp.2420240205.
  26. ^ Langlois, Judith H.; Roggman, Lori A.; Casey, Rita J.; Ritter, Jean M.; Rieser-Danner, Loretta A.; Jenkins, Vivian Y. (1987). "Infant preferences for attractive faces: Rudiments of a stereotype?". Developmental Psychology. 23 (3): 363–369. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.23.3.363.
  27. ^ E. Hatfield, S. Sprecher, (1986). Mirror, mirror…The importance of looks in everyday life. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  28. ^ Jackson, L.A.; Hunter, J.E.; Hodge, C.N. (1995). "Physical attractiveness and intellectual competence: A meta-analytic review". Social Psychology Quarterly. 58 (2): 108–122. doi:10.2307/2787149. JSTOR 2787149.
  29. ^ Marson, Stephen M.; Hessmiller, Joanne M. (2016). "The Dark Side of Being Pretty". Journal of Sociology and Social Work. 4. doi:10.15640/jssw.v4n1a8.