Why Science Says You Should Bother With Beauty

Well before social scientists had developed the techniques to systematically evaluate the social and economic effects of beauty, Tolstoy hit on a truth that’s only recently been confirmed. “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness,” wrote the Russian novelist in 1889. “A handsome woman talks nonsense, you listen and hear not nonsense but cleverness. She says and does horrid things, and you see only charm.” We might like to think we’re judged on our character and intellect, but psychologists and economists know better: People who are conventionally attractive enjoy a whole host of financial and social advantages. The most recent study finds a correlation between attractive real estate agents and high listing prices. Here are a few others to get you scurrying for some beauty advice.

"What Is Beautiful Is Good"

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Well before social scientists had developed the techniques to systematically evaluate the social and economic effects of beauty, Tolstoy hit on a truth that’s only recently been confirmed. “It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness,” wrote the Russian novelist in 1889. “A handsome woman talks nonsense, you listen and hear not nonsense but cleverness. She says and does horrid things, and you see only charm.” We might like to think we’re judged on our character and intellect, but psychologists and economists know better: People who are conventionally attractive enjoy a whole host of financial and social advantages. The most recent study finds a correlation between attractive real estate agents and high listing prices. Here are a few others to get you scurrying for some beauty advice.

Hitting the Jackpot

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Economist Daniel Hamermesh found that attractive people make more money: They are hired more easily and promoted more often. Hamermesh calculated that good looks increase one’s hourly income, on average, by about three to four percent. Another study found that the CEOs of successful companies were rated as more attractive than CEOs of smaller, less profitable businesses.

Rescue Me

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“Being attractive in this world is like taking the express lane to an easy life,” wrote Olga of xoJane in an article that was slammed by hundreds of commenters. But she had a point: Beautiful people accrue favors of all kinds. In one study, psychologists showed 75 college men were photographs of women. The men were far more likely to say they would do favors (such as help move furniture, donate blood ,or save the woman from a burning building) for the more attractive women. Another study found that when two women stand by a car with a flat tire beside the road, the better-looking one gets rescued first.

A+

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Think the grades you got were all about effort and intelligence? Teachers in 400 classrooms in Missouri were given fifth-grade report cards listing students’ grades and describing their attitude, work habits, and attendance. The only variant was the attached photo. The teachers expected the good-looking children not only to be more sociable and more popular, but more intelligent, too.

Attracting Your Adonis

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Beauty plays a pretty key role in attracting sexual partners, from casual flings to boyfriends and husbands. Good-looking people tend to begin having sex at an earlier age, and to participate in a wider range of sexual activities. In 1990, psychologist David Buss interviewed more than 10,000 people from 37 cultures about their mating preferences, and found that all over the world, not even kindness or intelligence could compete with physical good looks when it came to qualities people seek in a partner.

Parental Preference

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Perhaps most disturbingly of all, beautiful people may receive special treatment not only from strangers, teachers, employers and romantic partners, but from their own parents. In one study, psychologists found it easier to distract mothers from new-borns rated as less cute. The researchers also found that the mothers interacted with their babies in different ways according to their attractiveness: the mothers of the better-looking newborns spent more time holding the baby close, staring into the baby’s eyes and vocalizing to the baby. You might wonder whether it’s possible (or moral) to rate babies’ cuteness; so did I, but it turns out psychologists locate babies’ cuteness in their disproportionately large eyes, chubby cheeks, small noses and soft skin and hair.