Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Myth Busters [Beauty is Only Skin Deep]

¡Hola! Everybody...
I’ve been very lazy with writing lately. I’ve been using my laptop at home (I can’t write on those! LOL) and this weekend I finally started unpacking (after almost two months in the new place). My back is only beginning to get back to some semblance of normalcy, so I spent the past weekend painting and I finally started unpacking. First thing I did was unpack my monster Dell desktop.


It feels good and I still have literally thousands of books to unpack and arrange... I’m investing in a shelf system that will go great with my decorating scheme and save space to boot. For furniture, I’m getting, yes, IKEA (futon frame, media solutions, dressers)... I’ll take photos and share when I’m finished.

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-=[ Beauty is Only Skin Deep? ]=-

Beauty is only skin deep, and the world is full of thin-skinned people.

-- Richard Armour (1906–1989)

In the early 70s researchers showed that we project various positive characteristics on good-looking people. The study, “What is Beautiful is Good,” literally launched a movement in social psychology and since then, reams of studies have been published on a major self-fulfilling prophecy: Because attractive people are treated as if they have more to offer, they live up to those expectations. Conversely (and sadly), the reverse is true for those not pleasing to look at.

The 1972 study had researchers asking sixty college students to describe people solely on the basis of their photographs. Those whom the researchers took to be the most attractive were rated as socially more desirable were expected to have more prestigious jobs and happier marriages.

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking that surely that’s just the prejudice of the raters, right? It wouldn’t be fair if good-looking people had other things going for them, as well. Well, since when has life been fair? LOL Over the years, researchers have secretly judged the attractiveness of their subjects, measured them on a range of personality variables, and then looked for a relationship for the two. They have rarely been disappointed. Attractive people have turned out to have higher self-esteem, to be happier, less neurotic, and more resistant to peer pressure, than less attractive people. They also have more influence on others; are more valued as friends, colleagues, and lovers; get higher salaries; are dealt with les harshly in court; and are thought by their students to be superior teachers. While not all of these findings have been consistent for males and females, the overall pattern for both sexes is that beauty is definitely more than skin deep.

Even more depressing: Attractiveness is related to the perception (perhaps even the reality) of serious mental disorders. Researchers at the University of Tulsa discovered that students assumed ugly people were more likely than others to be psychologically disturbed. The lead researcher then made a point of telling another group of students that unattractiveness was unrelated to disturbance; he explicitly asked them to disregard this factor. Regardless, they, too, rated unattractive people as more troubled. Another researcher stopped people on the street and asked them to fill out a questionnaire assessing the likelihood that they, themselves, would eventually develop psychological disorders. His findings showed that “increasing attractiveness was related to a decreasing perceived risk of mental illness.”

The problem with these predictions is that they may be right. A study of female psychiatric patients uncovered that they were relatively unattractive compared to other women. It wasn’t that their misfortunes had ruined their looks: Even before they were diagnosed as mentally ill, the less-appealing women had had relationships that were more difficult. And among the patient population, those who were viewed as particularly unattractive were also the ones who had been committed for a longer period of time and had received a more serious diagnosis. Another study of a similar group of patients found them less attractive than their peers even back in high school, based on yearbook photographs.

Of course, all this may happen because appearance affects how we interact with people from the very beginning. Adults are more likely to look at, touch, and hold infants that are deemed “cute,” and this preference for beauty persists. As one researcher from the University of Hawaii put it, “the way we treat attractive versus unattractive people shapes the way they think about themselves, and, as a consequence, the kind of people they become.”




For a comprehensive review of the literature see Hatfield, E., & Sprecher, S. (1986). Mirror, mirror. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R. L. (2000). Physical attractiveness. In W. E. Craighead & C. B. Nemeroff (Eds.), The Corsini encyclopedia of psychology and behavioral science (Vol. 3, pp. 1203-1205). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

1 comment:

  1. It is quite depressing for the rest of us who are less then genetically blessed but hardly surprising. The Olivia Munn debacle is a case in point. Grant it she may have comedienne chops but she would have never been given the chance based on her resume if she were really plain.

    What I don't get is beautiful people complaining about being discriminated or oppressed. I find this line of reasoning obnoxious when their beauty for both men and women and most certainly with women garners them social and physical benefits that is a constant presence throughout their life--from jobs to suitable partners. In other words beautiful people really don't have to put in much effort. The less beautiful do all the work for them.


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