Prettier=Smarter?

I found an interesting post on Psychology Today having to do with physical attractiveness and intelligence. It reminded me of a project that I had done. I took a Social Psychology course a few years back, in which I had done research on a similar topic. I was supposed to research physical appearances. My initial thoughts, as I like to view and treat all people equally, was that looks don’t matter. I was surprised to find that previous research showed that I, unfortunately, was quite wrong.

Studies have found that the more “beautiful” people are perceived as smarter, more competent, and more successful than the less attractive people. This was proved with not only adults, but with children also. I was shocked to find that kids, as young as preschool age, are judged by their physical appearance! One study really stood out in my mind, it dealt with preschool teachers and students. The study created fake files of preschool students. They each contained a picture, and some reports on the child’s behavior. The files contained some children who were very cute and attractive, and some more homely looking children. The teachers were supposed to create responses, or evaluations for each student. Many of the children’s files contained instances of “trouble” behavior, many of these instances being almost identical. The study found that the lesser attractive children were rated as “troublesome” or “problematic” or “bad” for minor indiscresions, and the more attractive children were rated far more favorably for the identical behavior. Basically, the prettier children were given the benefit of the doubt, saying they might have been having a bad day, or this was just an isolated incident, but overall they were very good students. These were for the exact same behavior! I find it so sad that we judge appearances so much, even as young as preschoolers!

The post on Psychology Today dealt with a similar issue. It talked about how physically attractive people are viewed as smarter, and more competent than their less attractive counterparts.  It also suggests that this is not just related to mate selection. When tested, males rate other attrative males as more intellegent, females rate attracitive females higher. Even five year old kids rate more attractive teachers as more competent.

Is there any truth to this? The article states

Sociologists and social psychologists, convinced (and politically predisposed to believe) that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “beauty is only skin-deep,” dismiss this widespread perception as “bias,” stereotype,” or “halo effect,” with the implicit assumption that the perception is not accurate and has no factual basis.  It is a stereotype that beautiful people are more intelligent.  But, as I explain in an earlier post, virtually all stereotypes are empirically true; if they were not true, they would not be stereotypes in the first place.  And it turns out that this one is no exception.  People believe beautiful people are more intelligent, because they in fact are.

The University of North Carolina tested this by administering IQ tests, and rating the respondents by their attractiveness. The results showed that there was a positive relationship between the two. The more attractive one was, the higher they scored on an IQ test. Both males and females showed the same results.

I can’t help but think that this cannot be true…. One’s appearance shouldn’t predict their intelligence. Any thoughts?

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One Response

  1. I’ll share an opinion. People who are more physically attractive learn from adults that they are this way. This gives them more self confidence to assert themselves in a positive way. Vice versa, people who learn that they are less attractive don’t learn the same type of self confidence. It’s a vicious spiral that is almost impossible to break. No matter how great a parent is, there are always other people out there ready to judge and impress their opinions on you. It’s a tough world. If you think you’re dumb and ugly, I don’t doubt that manifests itself in lower test scores. I just don’t believe that ugly people are less intelligent at birth.

    What is ugly anyways? I think arrogant, selfish people are ugly.

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