Tag Archives: attractiveness

Self-Perceived Attractiveness Shapes Views of Social Hierarchies

Nielsen Product SpendingCosmetic surgery is the fastest-growing medical expenditure in the U.S, and Americans spend more on personal grooming than on reading material.

Even during the recession of 2008, Americans spent at least $200 billion on products and services to enhance their appearances, according to Stanford’s Margaret Neale and Peter Belmi, now of University of Virginia.

Margaret Neale

Margaret Neale

Personal appearance and attractiveness have been linked with likeability, perceived competence, income and more, and Neale and Belmi found further connections between people’s self-perceived attractiveness and their attitudes toward social inequality and hierarchies.

Attractiveness Bias2The team asked participants to write about a time when they felt more attractive or less attractive, and then indicate whether they agreed with statements such as, “Some groups of people are simply inferior to other groups,” and “Lower wages for women and ethnic minorities simply reflect lower skill and education level.”

The researchers found that people who think they are attractive also think they have greater social standing, and believe that people are entitled to their social position based on their personal (“dispositional”) qualities.

Occupy 99As a result, people who rate themselves as attractive generally feel that people in lower social strata are there due to their characteristics or behaviors.
These beliefs are associated with less willingness to donate money to a social equality non-profit organization (the Occupy movement).

Peter Belmi

Peter Belmi

By contrast, people who thought they were less attractive also thought they belonged to a lower-status social group, and rejected existing social hierarchies.
They attributed unequal social status to external factors often beyond the full control of those in less prestigious social groups. One example is lack of access to quality education.

Unlike self-perceptions of attractiveness, empathy and integrity were not related to people’s views of their social class and others’ place in society.

-*How have you seen appearance affect acceptance or organizational hierarchy and philanthropic giving?

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Attractive Appearance Helps Men – but not Women – Gain Business Funding

Laura Huang

Laura Huang

Entrepreneurs create jobs and contribute to economic growth with early investment by financial backers who trust the perceived business proposal’s viability and the founders’ previous experience.

Alison Wood Brooks

Alison Wood Brooks

Additional implicit criteria for new venture-funding include gender and physical attractiveness, asserted Harvard’s Alison Wood Brooks, Laura Huang of Wharton, MIT’s Sarah Wood Kearney and Fiona E. Murray.

Sarah Wood Kearney

Sarah Wood Kearney

Brooks and colleagues enlisted 60 experienced investors to:

  • Evaluate videos of 90 randomly-selected presentations by entrepreneurs at three pitch contests in the US,
  • Comment on presenters’ appearance and effectiveness.
Fiona E. Murray

Fiona E. Murray

Male presenters who were rated more attractive were 36% more likely to receive funding than men judged as less attractive, but there was no difference in funding rates for women based on attractiveness ratings.

In a separate study, investors evaluated identical pitches delivered by a man or a woman, and rated male-narrated pitches as more persuasive, logical and fact-based compared with the same presentation delivered by a woman.

These finding suggest that financial backers favor attractive male entrepreneurs, leaving women entrepreneurs – attractive or not – at a disadvantage in creating new businesses, jobs, and economic growth.

This finding underscores financial backers’ preference for male entrepreneurs’ proposals, based on attractive men’s greater perceived persuasiveness than women or less attractive men.

Edward Thorndike

Edward Thorndike

Previous blog posts have noted the “halo effect” of physical attractiveness leading to positive attributions of intelligence, competence, and likeability, originally described by Columbia’s Edward Thorndike.

Woods’ latest findings point to the double advantage enjoyed by attractive men seeking new venture funding.
Aspiring women entrepreneurs, on the other hand, continue to encounter significant unacknowledged disadvantages, not improved by physical attractiveness.

Eleanor Holly Buttner

Eleanor Holly Buttner

However, these findings were not confirmed by University of North Carolina’s E. Holly Buttner and Benson Rosen in their investigation of bank loan officers’ funding decisions.

Loan officers, who typically make funding decisions based on the business plan and interview with the entrepreneur, evaluated a:

  • Business plan or
  • Business plan plus a videotaped interview conducted by a loan officer with a male or female entrepreneur seeking a loan to start a business.
Benson Rosen

Benson Rosen

Bankers rated their likelihood of:

  • Recommending loan approval of the requested amount,
  • Making a counteroffer of a smaller amount, which they specified.

This study found no difference in funding decisions for male entrepreneurs compared with female entrepreneurs presenting the same business case.
In fact, loan officers made larger counteroffers to female entrepreneurs when considering both the business plan and the loan application interview.

Student volunteers’ loan funding decisions were compared with loan professionals, and the younger generation of lay people made larger counteroffers to the male entrepreneur instead of the female when they evaluated both the business plan and the loan interview,
Loan officers, in contrast, made significantly more cautious and conservative funding decisions than student participants.

Buttner and Benson recommended that female entrepreneurs ask to meet with loan officers to present their business proposals because this personal contact resulted in more successful funding of requested loans.

John Becker-Blease

John Becker-Blease

Another source of funding is “angel investors,” and Oregon State University’s John R. Becker-Blease and Jeffrey E. Sohl of University of New Hampshire found no difference in funding for male and female entrepreneurs.
They noted that women seek private investments substantially lower rates than men, but they are equally likely to receive investment.

However, when the “angels” are women, female entrepreneurs are more likely to seek financing and are as likely to receive the requested funding.

Jeffrey Sohl

Jeffrey Sohl

Women entrepreneurs may still face obstacles in starting new ventures,  a barrier shared with less attractive males.

-*How do you mitigate biases based on gender or attractiveness when asking for funding – for a business, initiative, or idea?

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When Appearance Matters for Career Development

Linda Jackson

Linda Jackson

Numerous social science studies link perceived attractiveness with perceived competence and likeability, including a meta-analysis by Michigan State University’s Linda JacksonJohn E. Hunter and Carole N. Hodge.
They found that physically attractive people are perceived as more intellectually competent, based on their research on “status generalization” theory and “implicit personality” theory.

Women who wore cosmetics were rated more highly for attractiveness, competence, likability and trustworthiness when viewed for as little as 250 milliseconds.
However, when raters looked at the faces for a longer period of time, ratings for likability and trustworthiness changed based on specific makeup looks even though volunteers accurately distinguished between judgments of facial trustworthiness and attractiveness.

Nancy Etcoff

Cosmetics differentially affected automatic and deliberative judgments, found Massachusetts General Hospital’s Nancy Etcoff and Lauren E. Haley collaborating with Shannon Stock of Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Boston University’s David M. House as well as Sarah A. Vickery of Procter & Gamble.

Sarah Vickery

Sarah Vickery

Attractiveness was significantly related to positive judgments of competence, but had a less systematic effect on perceived social warmth.
Integrating these findings, the team 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?

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How Much Does Appearance Matter?

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Perception of CEOs’ Non Verbal Leadership Behaviors Affect IPO Valuations, Predict Financial Performance

Elizabeth Blankespoor

Elizabeth Blankespoor

Favorable first impressions of CEOs can affect new companies’ valuations and can predict near-term performance.

Perception of CEO non-verbal behavior during IPO road show presentations was associated with higher valuations at each IPO stage, found Stanford’s Elizabeth Blankespoor, Greg Miller of University of Michigan, and University of North Carolina’s Brad Hendricks.
These findings underscore the importance of road show presentations and presenters’ credibility to investors, underwriters, analyst, and financial media.

Greg Miller

Greg Miller

Blankespoor’s team noted that for most investors, the road show is the first time they see the CEO in the two-week interval between setting the initial proposed price and determining the final offer price.
As a result, Blankespoor and colleagues posit “a tight link between perceptions and valuation.”

Participants in their investigation were hired through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing task website, to view videotapes of CEOs presenting IPO roadshow, then to rate the speakers for competence, attractiveness, and trustworthiness.

Brad Hendricks

Brad Hendricks

At least 40 people viewed each series of 30-second video clips from 224 actual road show presentations between 2011 and 2013, with modified audio to muffle words while retaining vocal pitch and rhythm.

After controlling for other factors that could affect stock price like CEO age, experience, and education, companies with higher-rated CEOs on a composite score of competence, attractiveness, and trustworthiness ratings received a larger price increase for the proposed offering price and the revised price for secondary markets.

Mechanical TurkFor each 5% increase in CEO composite perception score, the final market price was 11% higher, and CEO perceived competence and attractiveness had a significant impact on firm valuation.
However, trustworthiness alone had no effect.

These initial perceptions also correlated with companies’ early performance, based on stock prices up to 12 months after the IPO, suggesting that “…investors … glean real additional information about the CEO from … nonverbal behavior and … perceptions of management are signals for firm value.”

Gotham Research GroupBloggers as well as traditional media outlets are important arbiters of CEO reputation.
In a commissioned analysis of 10 well-known institutional bloggers by the Gotham Research Group, perceptions of CEO authenticity were significantly related to bloggers’ evaluations of CEO competence and performance.

Candor, bluntness, fearlessness, specificity, plain words, examples from stories, warmth, frequent contact with customers and employees, and acknowledging challenges and worthy competitors are all essential to setting a credible tone, according to this report.

Weber ShandwickIn fact, Public Relations firm Weber Shandwick noted that 49% of company reputation is attributed to CEO reputation, and 60% of market value is attributed to company reputation.
Perception of a CEO, the firm argues, has significant influence on market value, underscoring empirical findings by Blankespoor’s team.

-*What non-verbal behaviors and attributes signal “leadership” and “executive presence” to you?

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Attractive Men May Appear More Competent, But May Not Be Hired

Sun Young Lee

Sun Young Lee

Previous blog posts have noted bias in favor of attractive people for hiring and venture funding decisions, as well as for positive impression formation by others.

As a result, less attractive yet capable individuals may face “workplace attractiveness discrimination,” or differential treatment of people based on how they look, according to Sun Young Lee of University College London, University of Maryland’s Marko Pitesa, Madan Pillutla of London Business School, and INSEAD’s Stefan Thau.

Marko Pitesa

Marko Pitesa

In fact, their four studies using different samples, selection tasks, candidate attractiveness, and candidate interdependence found that people making employment decisions show systematic selection bias based on perceived attractiveness and organizational context.

Lee’s team drew on two theories to explain differential impact of attractiveness in employment and work task situation: Status generalization and interpersonal interdependence.

Murray Webster

Murray Webster

Status generalization describes how unrelated status characteristics like gender, ethnicity, national origin and attractiveness, become relevant to task performance as observers associate status characteristics with behavioral expectations, leading to group inequalities.
These associations are powerful, and often occur without conscious, logical or evidential basis, according to University of South Carolina’s Murray Webster and Martha Foschi.

James Driskell

James Driskell

Separately, Webster and University of South Carolina colleague James Driskell demonstrated that external status characteristics significantly affect face-to-face interactions:  When people work in task groups and physical status characteristics were made salient (skin color, age, social economic status. attractiveness), individuals with the preferred perceived characteristics were more likely to be rewarded with more power and prestige, even when these physical status characteristics are irrelevant to the task.

Martha Foschi

Martha Foschi

As a result, people with relevant skills may be overlooked in favor of individuals with high status outside the group.
Based on status generalization theory, Lee’s team suspected that decision makers associate attractiveness with competence in male but not in female candidates.

Harold Kelley

Harold Kelley

They integrated this inference with interdependence theory proposed by UCLA’s Harold Kelley and John Thibaut of University of North Carolina to suggest that people’s expectations of interpersonal relationships affect their attempts to maximize relational rewards and minimize accompanying costs.
Interdependence theory proposed that people who are interdependent in cooperative or competitive situations discriminate differently based on perceived attractiveness.

John Thibault

John Thibault

To evaluate this notion, Lee’s group assigned male and female volunteers to simulated employment selection situations in which team members interviewed and provided hiring recommendations for job candidates.
These team colleagues are typically in both cooperative and competitive situations with other employees because they cooperate for shared team rewards yet compete for recognition, promotions, commissions, and bonuses.

Participants read a hiring scenario describing different types of interdependencies between themselves as the decision-maker and the person hired in the job role, including competitive, cooperative, and no interdependence.

Madan Pillutla

Madan Pillutla

Volunteers evaluated two similar resumes accompanied by photos, one showing an “attractive” applicant and an “unattractive” candidate.
Assessors answered questions about the person’s competence, likely impact on their own success, and their likelihood of recommending the candidate for the position.

When the decision-maker expected to cooperate with the candidate, male candidates perceived as more attractive were also judged as more competent, more likely to enable the evaluator’s career success, and were more frequently recommended for employment .

Stefan Thau

Stefan Thau

However, when decision makers expected to compete with the candidate, they perceived attractive male candidates as less capable.
Evaluators discriminated against attractive male candidates by less frequently recommending these competitors for employment, suggesting that these capable candidates were eliminated to preserve the evaluator’s place in the current workplace skill hierarchy.
Attractive and unattractive female candidates were judged as equally competent, but attractive male candidates were rated as much more competent than unattractive male candidates.

Three subsequent studies provided evaluators with candidates’ age, race and education and manipulated headshot to consider in selecting their competitor or collaborator in a tournament task.
Decision-makers generally preferred attractive male or female candidates unless their personal outcomes are affected by the selection decision.

These studies suggested that attractiveness discrimination is “calculated self-interested behavior” in which men sometimes discriminate in favor and sometimes against attractive males.

-*How do you align with “calculated self-interest behavior” to mitigate bias?

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How Much Does Appearance Matter?

Orene Kearne

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.

Hillary Clinton

Numerous social science studies link perceived attractiveness with perceived competence and likeability including a meta-analysis by

Linda Jackson

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

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?

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