Beauty has its privileges. Studies reliably show that the most physically attractive among us tend to get more attention from parents, better grades in school, more money at work and more satisfaction from life. A study published in January in the Journal of Economics and Business found that good-looking banking CEOs take in over $1 million more in total compensation, on average, than their lesser-looking peers. “Good looks pay off,” the authors write.
Scientists attribute the human tendency to give attractive people better treatment to something called the halo effect. Basically, we tend to assume that good looks are a sign of intelligence, trustworthiness and good character and that ugliness is similarly more than skin deep. “Personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of reference,” Aristotle observed. This may help explain why attractive people are less likely to be arrested or convicted, even after controlling for criminal involvement, according to a 2019 study of nationally representative data published in the journal Psychiatry, Psychology and Law.
Yet those of us who never got that genetic golden ticket should take heart: The halo effect appears to go both ways. A number of studies show that goodness often enhances our looks. A paper in PLOS One in February, for example, reports that people found faces in photos more attractive when they learned the subjects were honest, kind and not aggressive. The results suggest that “facial attractiveness is malleable,” the authors write. Or as Sappho observed: “What is beautiful is good and what is good will soon be beautiful.”
Author(s): Emily Bobrow
Publication Date: 10 June 2023
Publication Site: WSJ