Is it Really About What’s on the Inside?

At least once in your life, you’ve probably been told that “it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters,” but statistics would beg to differ. 

“Attractive people make 12% more money on average”

– Business insider

Disclaimer: The definition of “success” varies drastically between individuals, and what people consider “attractive” is also subjective. For this article, the idea of “success” is related to the job market, and “attractiveness” is about both the mathematical measurements of beauty and the way society has conditioned us to believe certain features are considered to be more appealing.  

Before we can explore the benefits that “attractive” people have in life, we need to understand what makes someone attractive. Of course, beauty standards vary between culture to culture, but there are certain attributes that are considered to be attractive universally. These universally accepted traits have nothing to do with the frequently fading trends and standards, they are timeless and much more general. One major universal trait regarding beauty is facial symmetry, particularly when it comes to older men and women. Additionally, features that are considered “average” are deemed as more attractive, in this case, “average” does not refer to looking sub-par, but instead, it refers to traits and proportions that are within the norm. 

Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, an example of art
that uses the golden ratio

When it comes to how “beautiful” someone is, it can be simplified down to just a number, a ranking based on mathematical measurements all based on The Golden Ratio. In math, The Golden Ratio is a number equal to 1.61803. This particular number is a ratio derived from nature and is considered to be natural and visually pleasing. When it comes to art, The Golden Ratio is frequently applied as it creates a composition that draws the eyes of the audience to the significant elements while maintaining an overall aesthetically pleasing visual. A similar concept can be applied to humans and our faces. With this ratio, we can conclude a score out of 100%, with 100 meaning .perfection. that determines someone’s “attractiveness”. The ratio 1.6 is used on various facial features. Starting with width versus length, the ideal is to have a face slightly more than one and a half times longer than it is wide. When it comes to other segments of the face, symmetry is used to determine “perfection”, the ideal is to have ears and a nose of the same length and the size of an eye to be equal to the distance between the eyes.

Evan Spiegal (CEO of Snapchat)
One of the most attractive CEOs according to Aol

According to Business Insider, attractive people make 12% more money on average. This could be attributed to a little phenomenon known as the “halo effect,” a type of cognitive bias that leads people to perceive that a positive impression in one area of an individual will positively influence one’s opinion about other aspects of a person. If someone is physically attractive, they are perceived to be more able in other areas. Additionally, those who are more attractive are typically more confident and have better communication skills which are desirable in the workforce. When it comes to job interviews, a study conducted in Italy revealed that attractive people have a significantly higher chance of getting a callback. In this particular study, the average callback rate for “attractive” females was 54% and for males, it was 47%. Both the rates for attractive females and males are drastically greater than the average callback rate of 30%. A similar study was conducted in Argentina, the data showed that “attractive” people had a 36% higher callback rate even though they were equally qualified as those deemed “unattractive”.   Not only does being attractive pay off when it comes to finding a job, but it also benefits a company when they have attractive leaders. Reachers from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee tested the correlation between attractiveness and shareholder value, the researchers concluded that after positive news about a particular business was shown on television, stock prices rose higher for businesses with attractive CEOs.

Everyone wants to have faith in the criminal justice system, however, life can be unfair, especially in areas where physical appearance really should not play a role. Often times, people working for the criminal justice system actively try to avoid having any forms of biases, however, statistics show that sometimes our best efforts are not enough. 

George Lowery discusses a Cornell study about how juries are biased against unattractive defendants. They tend to get harsher sentences with an average of 22 months longer in prison. Less attractive people appear to look like criminals. Jurors who process information rationally are less likely to be influenced by the defendant’s appearance. 

In the first episode of Netflix’s “100 humans,” people were split into groups and asked how long they would sentence particular people for various crimes. The study concluded that attractive and friendly-looking people were given less jail time. When it comes to the average person, they unconsciously make judgments on people all based on their attractiveness, this can be extremely dangerous as countries such as The United States have jury duties for the average citizen.

Physically attractive people tend to be more confident which adds to the image that they are more able thus increasing the chance of them being paid higher wages. But this brings up the question: why are pretty people more confident in the first place? From childhood, better-looking students are perceived to outperform the other children (the halo effect) and are given preferential treatment. This is an accordance with the self-fulfilling prophecy when one believes something they unknowingly make it true. Hence why, if a child believes in their own superior abilities and is constantly reinforced by teachers, they subconsciously build confidence and are able to fulfill this expectation of them.

Correlation between GPA and confidence
Data collected from an anonymous survey sent to SAS highschool students

When it comes to physical attractiveness throughout childhood there are not as many direct relationships between gaining benefits and physical appearance, however, physical appearance does still play a large role in how people perceive themselves and others. Especially during adolescent years, our own self-confidence is strongly influenced by those around us. Due to the confidence built from the halo effect and the self-fulfilling prophecy, those who are more attractive often times also do well in school. According to an anonymous survey sent out to students, mostly from SAS, it revealed a correlation between higher levels of confidence and high GPAs.

When it comes to “pretty privilege” the clearest advantages are seen later in life, however, it is important to take note of what we can do to gain some of these advantages in the future. When it comes to success in the job market, a major reason why “attractive” people do better is due to the association with higher confidence levels and better communication skills. Both confidence and communication skills are not caused by physical appearance, which means this is something we can control. Additionally, physical appearance does not magically solve all your problems, the attractive people who get more jobs usually still have the qualifications. 

All in all, when judging who we are as a person, there are so many more important factors than physical appearance. Yes, there is research backing up the benefits to physical attractiveness, however, we shouldn’t waste time dwelling over something we have little control over.

Author: Cassandra Lundsgaard

Cassandra Lundsgaard is currently a senior, and this is her second year as a reporter for The Eye. She was born and raised in China but is originally half Danish and half Singaporean. In her free time, she typically procrastinates by “accidentally” spending hours on Netflix, as well as napping during unreasonable hours. She can be contacted at lundsgaard770785@sas.edu.sg

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