Orene Kearne started a lively discussion on LinkedIn closed group We Are Watermark,questioning the impact of Hillary Clinton’s appearance on her perceived competence in her role as US Secretary of State.
Numerous social science studies link perceived attractiveness with perceived competence and likeability including a meta-analysis by
Linda Jackson and team, published in Social Psychology Quarterly, which supported “status generalization” theory and “implicit personality” theory that physically attractive people are perceived as more intellectually competent
A more recent study found that women who wore cosmetics were rated more highly on dimensions of attractiveness, competence, likability and trustworthiness when viewed for as little as 250 milliseconds.
However, when participants looked at the faces for a longer period of time, ratings for competence and attractiveness remained the same, but ratings for likability and trustworthiness changed based on specific makeup looks.
Volunteers were able to distinguish between judgments of facial trustworthiness and attractiveness.
Nancy Etcoff led a team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston University and Proctor & Gamble, and concluded that cosmetics could differentially affect automatic and deliberative judgments.
Attractiveness was related to positive judgments of competence, but a less systematic effect on perceived social warmth.
She distilled related findings into Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty.
and concluded that attractiveness “rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes.”
Although most people recognize the bias inherent in assumptions that attractive people are competent and that unattractive people are not, this correlation is important in impression management in the workplace, as well as in the political arena.
-*Where have you seen appearance exert an influence in workplace credibility, decision-making and role advancement?