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.
(Dion et al., 1972; Miller, 1970) Studies 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. (Dion et al., 1972) Regarding the perception of beauty in the East, Wheeler and Kim (1997) 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 (Rohner, J.-C., 2012).
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. Studies 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. In many cases, humans attribute positive characteristics, such as intelligence and honesty, to attractive people without consciously realizing it. 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.
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. In addition other studies show that customers' perceptions of quality of service is boosted by physical attractiveness.
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.
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.
Beauty premium phenomenon
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.
- 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.
- Physically attractive people are more sociable and less socially anxious and lonely than less physically attractive people.
- 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.
- Individuals are more likely to give personal information to physically attractive people than less physically attractive people.
- A physically attractive person is more likely to be reinforced than a less attractive person.
- 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.
- 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.
- Physically unattractive defendants are considered to be more dangerous than physically attractive offenders in sex-related crimes.
- Physically attractive individuals found guilty of a particular crime are more likely to receive more generous sentences than less physically attractive defendants.
- 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.
- People with facial disfigurements and other flaws are seen as less desirable. Even babies seem to prefer physically attractive faces to physically unattractive ones.
Reactions to beauty may lead to interpersonal tension and conflict. For example, individuals who are better-looking people are often at a disadvantage, because people attribute greater negative and egocentric traits to them. Extremely attractive individuals may be refused by their own sex type who are jealous of them. In fact, 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. Furthermore, the correlation between physical attractiveness and honesty and concern for others are most likely negative.
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