The Attractiveness Bias: “Cheerleader Effect”, Positive Attributions, and “Distinctive Accuracy”

Bad Hair Day? Consider spending time in a group of attractive people.
Observers may find you more attractive and likable when you’re in a group, and may more accurately judge your personality traits.

Edward Vul

Edward Vul

University of California, San Diego’s Drew Walker and Edward Vul reported that volunteers rated target individuals as more attractive when they were observed in a group rather than alone.
Walker and Vul argue that the brain’s perceptual system “computes a statistical summary representation, or an ensemble,” and is biased toward perceiving the ensemble average as attractive.

As a result, individuals are perceived as more similar to the average group face, which is more attractive than group members’ individual faces – the ”cheerleader effect,” which might confirm the value of a “wingman/woman” in social and networking situations.

Previous blog posts mentioned that individuals who are judged attractive have additional “unfair advantages”:  The prevalent bias in attributing positive characteristics to them, including good health, good genes, intelligence, and success.

Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham

There tends to be agreement on ratings of physical attractiveness across cultures and genders, according to University of Louisville’s Michael R. Cunningham, Anita P. Barbee, Perri B. Druen, who collaborated with Alan R. Roberts of Indiana University and Chung Yuan Christian University’s Cheng-Huan Wu.

They reported features rated as most attractive for women: 

  • High cheekbones and forehead
  • Fuller lips
  • Large, clear eyes
  • Shorter jaw
  • Narrower chin.
Alan Roberts

Alan Roberts

Cunningham’s group noted that women’s weight wasn’t as relevant to attractiveness as a waist-to-hips ratio of 7:10 and Body Mass Index (BMI) of 20.85, a finding that may surprise weight-conscious individuals.

In contrast, preferred characteristics for men were a large jaw and brow, prominent cheekbones, and broad chin, with a waist-to-hips ratio for men is 9:10 and about 12 percent body fat.
Smooth skin, shiny hair, and facial symmetry were rated as attractive for both women and men.

Genevieve Lorenzo

Genevieve Lorenzo

Physical attractiveness focuses observers’ attention on attractive individuals, and enable more accurate assessments of their personality traits based on brief interactions, according to University of British Columbia’s Genevieve Lorenzo and Jeremy Biesanz with Lauren Human of University of California, San Francisco.

Jeremy Biesanz

Jeremy Biesanz

They found that observers identify the personality traits of physically attractive people more accurately and similarly to the attractive person’s self-reported personality traits (“distinctive accuracy”).

Lauren Human

Lauren Human

In addition, these volunteers accurately identified the “relative ordering” of attractive participants’ Big Five personality traits (extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, openness to experience, and emotional stability ⁄ neuroticism) and showed a positive bias toward attractive people.

Nicholas Rule

Nicholas Rule

Similarly, University of Toronto’s Nicholas Rule and Nalini Ambady, then of Tufts, reported that volunteer raters could accurately evaluate the competence, dominance, likeability, maturity and trustworthiness of CEOs by viewing photographs of the executives’ faces.

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

In addition, thirty volunteers assessed CEOs’ “leadership success” based on appearance alone, and these rating were very significantly related to profitability of the organizations the CEOs led.

John Graham

John Graham

John Graham, Campbell Harvey and Manju Puri of Duke demonstrated positively biased attributions toward CEOs and non-executives in their “corporate beauty contest.”

They paired photos of more than 100 white male chief executive officers of large and small companies with photos of non-executives with similar facial features, hairstyles and clothing.

Campbell Harvey

Campbell Harvey

Nearly 2,000 participants assessed photos and rated CEOs as competent and attractive more frequently than non-executives.
However, volunteers were less likely to rate CEOs as likeable and trustworthy.

Those rated as appearing “competent” earned more money, but here, CEO appearance wasn’t associated with company profitability.

Elaine Wong

Elaine Wong

Specific facial structures, not just attributed personality traits, were associated with superior business results, according to University of Wisconsin’s Elaine Wong and Michael P. Haselhuhn working with Margaret E. Ormiston of London Business School.

They noted that firms that achieved superior financial results tended to have male CEOs with wider faces (relative to facial height), particularly among organizations with “cognitively simple leadership teams.”

Margaret Ormiston

Margaret Ormiston

These results may be interpreted through the lens of evolutionary biology, suggesting that facial structure may be perceived by observers and followers as possessing trustworthy leadership skills, leading to attributions of competence, and igniting loyalty and motivation to follow.

-*What positive bias do you observe toward attractive individuals in the workplace? 

-*How do you harness the positive bias toward attractive individuals?

Follow-share-like http://www.kathrynwelds.com and @kathrynwelds

RELATED POSTS:

Twitter  @kathrynwelds
Blog – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary  
Google+
LinkedIn Open Group Psychology in Human Resources (Organisational Psychology)
Facebook Notes:

©Kathryn Welds

One thought on “The Attractiveness Bias: “Cheerleader Effect”, Positive Attributions, and “Distinctive Accuracy”

  1. Pingback: Self-Perceived Attractiveness Shapes Views of Social Hierarchies | Occupy Wall Street by Platlee

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s