Sunday, March 19, 2006

Looks matter.

Our response to beauty is hard-wired. Douglas Kenrick, professor of psychology at Arizona State University, studied babies as young as eight-months old.

Eye-tracking shows that babies will stare longer at an attractive female face, no matter what the race. We define being beautiful as having symmetrical, regular features with big eyes, thick lips and smooth skin.

It takes people three seconds to judge new acquaintances. Nalini Ambady, professor of psychology at Tufts University’s work shows that brief exposures become “thin slices on experience” that we rely on to instantly judge others.

There is a bonus for beauty and a penalty for plainness. Most people use looks to judge others (and themselves).

People with above-average looks earn a premium ranging from one to 13 percent. People with below-average looks get a penalty ranging from one to 15 percent.

Surprisingly enough, men’s looks have a larger effect on their earnings than women.

For Harvard MBAs, the difference in earnings over the first ten years of their careers was between 15 to 28 percent for men who were handsome.

No one escapes. Even for men who earn hourly wages, those who are judged homely earn about 9 percent less than those who are average. Above-average looking men receive a five percent premium.

For women, the penalty for homeliness was 5 percent while the premium for good looks was 4 percent.

Research by the Canadian Psychological Association found that men are as likely as women to have negative body images. Seventy-five percent of men don’t like how they look.

For more information, check out our website at and use our online form.