The surprising bad things about being drop-dead beautiful. Can you be too beautiful? Most of us don’t have to worry about it, even if we wish we did.
Yet, psychologists have been interested in the pros and cons of beauty for a long time. Do people who have symmetrical features and a striking body always get compliments, or does it sometimes pay to be plain?
Lisa Slattery Walker and Tonya Frevert, both social psychologists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, have reviewed the findings of research spanning several decades and examined all of the data that is now available.
You might believe that you have an idea of what conclusions they would reach, but you’d be mistaken.
At its most fundamental level, beauty might be conceptualized as consisting of a kind of halo that surrounds the subject. When we observe that a person possesses one positive quality, our thoughts automatically presume that they possess more positive qualities as well. According to Walker, “It’s one of the many status features that we can rapidly figure out when we talk to people”.
The television show 30 Rock may be more familiar with the term “the bubble”:
Fans of the television show 30 Rock may be more familiar with the term “the bubble” than the psychological term “what is beautiful is good” (also known as the “what is beautiful is good” heuristic). The character played by Jon Hamm is bad at what he does, but he is able to deceive himself into thinking that he is excellent because he has a good appearance.
Even though he is a doctor, he is unable of doing the Heimlich maneuver, yet because of his innate charm, he was able to breeze through medical school without too much difficulty.
Because of the evidence at hand, we are in no doubt that the bubble exists. In the field of education, for instance, Walker and Frevert discovered a large body of research that demonstrated teachers had a tendency to believe that pupils who are more attractive are brighter and more capable, and the marks they give are an indication of this belief.
In addition to this, the effect of the bubble becomes more pronounced as time passes. Frevert thinks that there is an influence that builds up over time. You will develop a greater sense of self-assurance, a greater number of positive beliefs, and more opportunities to demonstrate how capable you are.
There are some advantages of being beautiful:
At work, how you present yourself might be the difference between success and failure. People who are perceived to have a higher level of attractiveness have a greater likelihood of making more money and climbing the corporate ladder more quickly than those who are perceived to have a lower level of attractiveness. The most beautiful and the least attractive people in a group of MBA graduates both made approximately 10 to 15 percent more than the others, which equates to approximately $230,000 (£150,000) more over the course of a lifetime. The study was conducted on MBA graduates. According to Walker, “You get aid in all aspects of your life, from school to job.” [Case in point].
How beautiful you are could hurt your health care:
Even scarier is the fact that looking good could hurt your health. We tend to think that good looks mean good health, so illnesses that affect good-looking people are often not taken as seriously as they should be. For example, when people are in pain, doctors tend to pay less attention to the ones who are more attractive.
People who are stunningly attractive have a harder time finding dates than those who are:
And the bubble of beauty may be an incredibly isolating place at times. A study that was conducted in 1975 found that people have a tendency to move away from an attractive woman who is standing on the sidewalk. Even if it is done out of respect, this makes it more difficult for people to communicate with one another. According to Frevert, a person’s attractiveness can give them greater control over the apparent area around them; yet, this can convey the impression to other individuals that they are unable to approach that person. A recent study conducted by the online dating service OkCupid found that users whose profile images appeared to have been professionally taken had a lower success rate in finding partners than those whose pictures appeared to have been taken with less care. It’s possible that this is due to the fact that photographs that aren’t ideal are less likely to turn off potential dates.
There is no correlation between attractiveness and contentment:
Therefore, contrary to what you might have anticipated, being beautiful is not a prerequisite for contentment, but it does contribute to it. Frevert and Walker are eager to point out that these effects, such as our perceptions of beauty, are not as firmly ingrained in our DNA as some people would assume they are.
According to Walker, “We have a whole set of cultural ideas about beauty that tell us if someone is appealing, and those same ideals make us start to correlate attractiveness with competence.” [Cultural beliefs about beauty] It’s nothing more than a mental shortcut that allows for a speedy evaluation if you will. According to Frevert, “Like many of the shortcuts we employ, it’s not very trustworthy.” And putting a stop to it might not be as difficult as one might think. For instance, the department of human resources could provide interviewers with additional information on a candidate’s previous successes before the interview.
Too much attention to how you look can hurt you:
In the end, Frevert says that worrying too much about how you look can hurt you if it makes you feel too stressed out and worried. Even if you are already pretty, this is still true. “If you worry too much about how attractive you are, it could change your life and how you interact with other people,” she says. Even though it’s a cliche, a person’s personality matters more than how pretty they are. The writer Dorothy Parker once said, “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugliness goes all the way to the bone.”
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