Tag Archives: attribution

Plastic Surgery Changes Perceived Personality Traits

Michael J. Reilly

Michael J. Reilly

People often evaluate others using facial profiling making inferences of personality attributes by visual observation, according to Georgetown University Hospital’s Michael J. Reilly, Jaclyn A. Tomsic and Steven P. Davison, collaborating with Stephen J. Fernandez of MedStar Health Research Institute.
This cognitive shortcut can lead to biased impressions and limited opportunities for those unfavorably judged.

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

Jaclyn A. Tomsic

The research team asked observers to rate women’s personality and character traits following plastic surgery procedures between 2009, and 2013 including:

  • Chin implant,
  • Eyebrow-lift,
  • Lower blepharoplasty (lower eye lift),
  • Upper blepharoplasty (upper eye lift),
  • Neck-lift,
  • Rhytidectomy (face-lift).

Judges assigned higher scores for likeability, social skills, attractiveness, and femininity following plastic surgery compared with their pre-surgery ratings.

Michael Reilly-Preoperative-Postoperative photosPreoperative and postoperative photographs of 30 women exhibiting “well-matched neutral facial expressions” were split into 6 groups, each with 5 preoperative and 5 postoperative photographs of different participants.

Steven Davison

Steven Davison

At least 24 raters, unaware that participants had plastic surgery procedures, evaluated each photograph on a 7-point scale for:

  • Aggressiveness,
  • Extroversion,
  • Likeability,
  • Risk-seeking,
  • Social skills,
  • Trustworthiness,
  • Attractiveness.

Reilly’s team noted that these surgical procedures provided cosmetic improvements to two regions crucial to expressing and interpreting emotions: eyes and mouth.

Michael Reilly - Pre-Post 2They concluded that:
“The eyes are highly diagnostic for attractiveness as well as for trustworthiness which may explain why, in our patient population, patients undergoing lower (eyelid surgery) were found to be significantly more attractive and feminine, and had a trend toward improved trustworthiness as well.”

“The corner of the mouth is the diagnostic region for both happy and surprised expressions and plays an important role in the perception of personality traits, such as extroversion.
“A subtle upturn of the mouth and fullness in the cheeks can make a person look more intelligent and socially skilled.
“This appearance may explain why patients undergoing a facelift procedure … are found to be significantly more likeable and socially skilled postoperatively.”

Paul Ekman

Paul Ekman

These results validate empirical findings that people make trait inferences based on facial appearance and structural resemblance to standard emotional expressions, described by University of San Francisco’s Paul Ekman.

Volunteers attributed personality traits to neutral faces when they detected a resemblance to standard emotional expressions, reported Princeton’s Christopher P. Said and Alexander Todorov with Nicu Sebe of University of Trento in their study applying a Bayesian network classifier trained to detect emotional expressions in facial images.

Christopher P. Said

Christopher P. Said

Neutral faces perceived as positive resemble typical facial expressions of happiness, whereas faces seen as negative resemble facial displays of disgust and fear.
Faces viewed as threatening resemble facial expressions of anger.

Trait inferences result from overgeneralization in emotion recognition systems, which typically extract accurate information about a person’s emotional state.

Nicu Sebe

Nicu Sebe

However, faces that bear subtle resemblance to emotional expressions can lead to misattributed personality traits and biased impressions.
These judgments can change for the better when a person’s appearance changes after plastic surgery.

-*To what extent do people’s personality traits seems different following plastic surgery?

-*How often are people treated differently following plastic surgery?

*What are ways to avoid confusing emotional expressions with personality traits?

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Women’s Self-Advocacy: Self-Promotion and Violating the “Female Modesty” Norm

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Many women experience anxiety when required to showcase their accomplishments and skills, yet many in the U.S. have repeatedly heard that self-promotion, personal marketing, and “selling yourself” are required to be recognized and rewarded at work.

Gender norms about “modesty” contribute to women’s discomfort in highlighting their accomplishments.
These unspoken rules include holding a moderate opinion of one’s skills, lacking pretentiousness, minimizing responsibility for success, and accepting responsibility for failure.

Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In contrast, many American men freely share their skills, which leads others to see them as “competent,” “capable,” and “confident.”
In fact, this norm is associated with “backlash” against men who adopt the “modesty” norm and do not advertise their successes, according to Skidmore’s Corinne Moss-Racusin, Julie Phelan of Langer Research Associates, and Rutgers’ Laurie Rudman.

Women from cultures that value cooperation, collaboration, and collective accomplishment over individual recognition have even greater challenges adopting local career advancement strategies.

Marie‐Hélène Budworth

Marie‐Hélène Budworth

Yet, conforming to these norms limits women’s career advancement, found York University‘s MarieHélène Budworth and Sara L. Mann of University of Guelph.

Deborah A. Small

Deborah A. Small

Women who adhere to implicit “female modesty” expectations experience this career handicap because they are less likely to ask for promotions and raises.
This reluctance to ask contributed to women’s long-term pay disparity in research by University of Pennsylvania’s Deborah A. Small, Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University, University of Maryland’s Michele Gelfand and Hilary Gettman.

Peter Glick

Peter Glick

However, if women violate “modesty norms”, they can experience discrimination in hiring, promotion, and wages, reported Rutgers’ Rudman and Peter Glick of Lawrence University.
In addition, they can also experience other adverse interpersonal consequences, noted Yale’s Victoria Brescoll.

Mark Zanna

Mark Zanna

People who violate norms typically experience situational arousal including discomfort, anxiety, fear, nervousness, perspiration, increased heart rate, according to University of Waterloo’s Mark Zanna and Joel Cooper of Princeton.

However, if women attribute this physical activation to something other than the norm violation, they were more likely to:

Jessi L Smith

Jessi L Smith

Despite women’s career “double bind,” targeted interventions can help women to communicate more effectively about their successes, noted Montana State University’s Jessi L. Smith and Meghan Huntoon.

More than 75 women wrote sample essays for a merit-based “scholarship” valued up to USD $5,000.
One group was composed essays about their own accomplishments whereas another group wrote about another person’s accomplishments.

Andrew Elliott

Andrew Elliott

They also completed Achievement Goal Questionnaire – Revised by University of Rochester Andrew Elliot and Kou Murayama of Tokyo Institute of Technology to evaluate “performance approach” and “performance avoidance.”

The laboratory contained a black box described as a “subliminal noise generator.”
Half the volunteers were told the box produced “inaudible but potentially uncomfortable ultra-high frequency noise,” and they were later asked to evaluate “the effects of extraneous distractions on task performance.”
The remaining participants received no information about the black box.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Women who could attribute their experience to the “noise generator” produced higher-quality, more convincing descriptions of their achievements, measured by being “awarded” significantly higher scholarships prizes – up to USD $1,000 more.
These women also said they were more interested in the task, which is typically associated with greater intrinsic motivation to showcase personal accomplishments.

In contrast, women who violated the “modesty” norm without reference to the “noise generator” said they were:

  • Less interested in describing their achievements,
  • Negatively evaluated their performance,
  • Produced lower-quality essays,
  • More likely to fear failure 
    than when they advocated for another woman.

Women perceived as displaying their accomplishments in essays were negatively evaluated by judges, who “awarded” an average of USD $1,500 less to people wrote about their own accomplishments rather than about someone else’s.

Leon Festinger

Leon Festinger

One “workaround” for women’s double bind is to reciprocally advocate for female colleagues.
This strategy highlights women’s accomplishments as organizational policies evolve to support and encourage women’s self-promotion.
An example is Google’s self-nomination process for advancement and promotion, coupled with reminder emails to submit self-nominations.

When women reconstrue self-promotion, “selling” and “marketing” professional accomplishments as “part of the job,” they tend to experience less cognitive dissonance and perform more effectively when showcasing their capabilities.

  • How do you manage the norm against women “bragging” and showcasing their accomplishments?

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Perceived Diversity = “Like Me”

Christopher Bauman

Christopher Bauman

Judgments of “diversity” are rarely completely objective:  They are influenced by subjective elements, including  the rater’s racial and ethnic group.
People tend to rate a group as “diverse” when it includes members of the evaluator’s race, found University of California, Irvine’s Christopher W. Bauman, Sophie Trawalter of University of Virginia and UCLA’s Miguel M. Unzueta.

Sophie Trawalter

Sophie Trawalter

Almost 1900 volunteers from diverse racial groups rated headshots of a company’s six-person management team for its “ethnically diversity”:

  • Caucasian team” included six white headshots (100% white),
  • Asian team” showed four white and two Asian people (mirroring the 66% majority of white people in the U.S.),
  • “Black team” featured four white and two black people (66% white),
  • Asian + Black” team had four white, one black, and one Asian person (66% white).
Miguel Unzueta

Miguel Unzueta

Members of racial minority groups rated leadership groups as “more diverse” when they included members of their own racial group rather than members of other racial minority groups.

Participants rated groups as it “less racially diverse” when they did not include at least one member of their own racial group, and this “in-group representation effect” was stronger for African Americans than for Asian Americans.

Later, more than 1,000 volunteers read news articles about the prevalence of prejudice, then provided ratings.
They showed no “in-group representation” effect, suggesting that reading about how another minority group suffers from prejudice reduced raters’ self-referential evaluation bias.

These results indicate that people’s expectations affect perceptions of diversity.
Priming awareness and empathy for similar experienced encountered by other groups reduced in-group biases.

Jim Sidanius

Jim Sidanius

African Americans, compared with other groups, frequently are  judged as experiencing:

Felicia Pratto

Felicia Pratto

In contrast, Asian Americans tend to be attributed higher status and as a result, report less discrimination than other racial minority groups.

Andrea Romero

Andrea Romero

Despite this advantage, Asian Americans have a lower return on their investment in education than Whites, even though they achieve higher levels of education and income than other racial minority groups, reported University of Arizona’s Andrea Romero with Robert Roberts of University of Texas and another group led by UT colleague Myrtle P. Bell with David A. Harrison and Mary E. McLaughlin.

Myrtle P Bell

Myrtle P Bell

Higher levels of “diversity” have been linked to greater:

Valerie Purdie-Vaughns

Valerie Purdie-Vaughns

Separate studies by Columbia’s Valerie Purdie-Vaughns and Ruth Ditlmann, Claude M. Steele of Stanford, University of British Columbia’s Paul G. Davies and Jennifer Randall Crosby of Williams College confirmed these findings, as did related work by UCLA’s Jaana Juvonen and Sandra Graham with University of California Davis’s Adrienne Nishina 

Jaana Juvonen

Jaana Juvonen

Diversity is “in the eye of the beholder” because a team may appear more diverse to raters when the group’s composition aligns with the observers’ own characteristics.

-*How do you reduce personal in-group biases based on individual expectations and experiences?

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Brand You: Pronounceable Names are More Likeable, Maybe More Hireable

Simon Laham

Simon Laham

Personal names, like brands, evoke inferences about likability and specific characteristics, like gender, ethnicity, social class, intellectual competence, masculinity-femininity, and even personality characteristics, according to University of Melbourne’s Simon M. Laham, Peter Koval of University of Leuven, and NYU’s Adam L. Alter.

Peter Koval

Peter Koval

They argue that these assumptions affect impression formation and may lead to bias.

More than 20 years ago, UCLA’s Albert Mehrabian began investigating the impact of personal names and developed the Name Connotation Profile to assess attributions to specific names.

Albert Mehrabian

Albert Mehrabian

He concluded that “people with desirable or attractive names are treated more favorably by others than are those with undesirable or unattractive names,” base on findings from more than ten studies.

Personal names are also associated income and educational attainment, reported Saku Aura of University of Missouri, collaborating with Claremont McKenna College’s Gregory D. Hess.

Saku Aura

Saku Aura

They evaluated the relationship among “first name features” (FNF) including:

  • “Popularity” (frequency),
  • Number of syllables,
  • Phonetic features,
  • Scrabble score (?),
  • “Blackness” (fraction of people with that name who are African-American),
  • “Exogenous” background factors (sex, race, parents’ education).
Gregory Hess

Gregory Hes

In addition, Aura and Hess scrutinized associations between first names and “lifetime outcomes” including:

  • Financial status,
  • Occupational prestige,
  • Perceived social class,
  • Education,
  • Happiness,
  • Becoming a parent before age 25. 



First name features predicted education, happiness and early fertility, which were also related to labor market productivity.
However, workforce productivity can be reduced when discriminatory decisions about names reduce labor market participation, such as for names rated for “blackness.”

Marianne Bertrand

Marianne Bertrand

University of Chicago’s Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard documented this effect when they found that name discrimination affects hiring decisions. 
 Job applicants with “African American-sounding” names were less likely to be invited for a job interview than a person with a “White-sounding” name.

Sendhil Mullainathan

Sendhil Mullainathan

Bertrand and Mullainathan responded to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers by sending fictitious resumes containing “African-American” or “White” names.

They found that “White name” candidate received 50% more interview invitations across occupation, industry, and employer size.
This bias was centered more on inferred race than social class, suggesting that discrimination in hiring practices persists but has become more subtle, and perhaps even unconscious.

Claire Etaugh

Claire Etaugh

Another form of name discrimination is women who take their husband’s surname.
They are typically seen as less “agentic” and more “communal” than those who retain their own names, noted Bradley University’s Claire E. Etaugh, Myra Cummings-Hill, and Joseph Cohen with Judith S. Bridges of University of Hartford.
These attributions are usually associated with stereotypic “feminine” attitudes and behaviors, which can slow career advancement.

David Figlio

David Figlio

Gender-based name discrimination can affect males as well:  Gender-incongruous names seem to invoke social penalties for boys, according to Northwestern’s David Figlio.

He reported that boys who had names usually associated with girls were more likely to be expelled from school after disruptive behavior beginning in middle school.

Daniel Y Lee

Daniel Y Lee

In related findings, Shippensburg University’s David E. Kalist and Daniel Y. Lee found that people with unusual names (less “popular”) were more likely to have juvenile delinquency experiences.

These finding suggest that unusual names may provoke negative and stigmatizing attributions, which can lead to confirmatory behaviors that lead to asocial acts.

Besides racial and ethnic associations with names, some are easier for English speaking people to pronounce.

Adam Alter

Adam Alter

Easy-to-say names are judged more favorably than difficult-to-pronounce names, in related findings by LahamKoval, and Alter.

In fact, they found that people with easier-to-pronounce surnames occupy higher status positions in law firms, demonstrating the importance of “processing fluency”- the subjective ease or difficulty of a cognitive task – when forming an impression.

Laham and team pointed to the “hedonic marking hypothesis,” that posits “processing fluency” automatically activates a positive emotional reaction, which is then attributed to the evaluated “stimulus object” – a person’s name.

They noted that pronouncability strongly influences likeability and other evaluations, and can lead to decision bias, as in hiring choices.

Names matter, whether for products or people, because they carry emotional and cognitive associations that may bias impressions and decisions.

-*How have you modified your name?

-*What have been the effects on how others perceive you?
Your occupational opportunities?

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Clothing Influences Thinking and Behavior, not Just Others’ Perceptions

A previous post highlighted the influence of the body on thinking, through “embodied cognition.”

Hajo Adam

Hajo Adam

An extension of this idea is “unclothed cognition,” the impact of clothing on thinking and behavior, according to Rice University’s Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University.

Adam and Galinsky considered the symbolic meaning of clothing and wearer’s physical experience by evaluating the impact of wearing a lab coat on participants’ task performance.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Before the experiments, volunteers said in a survey that they associated “attentiveness” and “carefulness” with “a lab coat.”
Next, participants completed a Stroop Test, a task that requires selective attention to differentiate words in incongruent colors (“red” presented in green letters), while wear a lab coat or their street clothes.

Volunteers performed better when they wore a lab coat than when they completed the same tasks while wearing street clothes.

In other experiments, Adam and Galinsky described the lab coat to some participants as a “doctor’s coat” and to others as a  “painter’s coat.”
Volunteers who wore a “doctor’s coatperformed better on sustained attention tasks and were better able to discriminate features in nearly-similar images, than those who wore a  “painter’s coat.” 

Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis

Clothing’s symbolic meaning as visual communication can influence the viewer’s attributions and the wearer’s behavioral alignment with the role suggested by clothing, argued Joshua I. Davis of Barnard College, who studied the effect of BOTOX injections on emotional experience.

Sandra Forsythe

Sandra Forsythe

Clothing’s impact on others’ evaluation of the wearer was further detailed by Sandra Forsythe, now of Auburn University collaborated with University of Tennessee’s Mary F. Drake, and Charles E. Cox.
They videotaped simulated job interviews of women wearing various styles of dress, and found that more than 75 human resources professionals recommended hiring female job applicants who wore more “masculine” attire than those wearing other styles of dress.

Norah Dunbar

Norah Dunbar

Clothing’s influence on the viewers’ impression of others’ credibility was investigated by University of Oklahoma’s Norah E. Dunbar and Chris Segrin of University of Arizona guided by their colleague Judee Burgoon‘s expectancy violation theory.

Chris Segrin

Chris Segrin

Two instructors gave lectures in undergraduate college classes, wearing either expected “appropriate” attire for this role, or wearing unconventionally casual clothing.
The instructors also provided either high interpersonal support or less rewarding interactions.

Judee Burgoon

Judee Burgoon

Dunbar and Segrin found that students were less influenced by unexpected attire when the instructor provided more social rewards.
They suggested that interpersonal demeanor can be even more influential than clothing in determining impressions of credibility and likability.

Similarly, the impact of clothing on judgments of competence and achievement for both students and teachers in Ohio high schools was demonstrated in research by Bowling Green State’s Dorothy Behling with Elizabeth Williams.

Anat Rafaeli

Anat Rafaeli

Clothing’s influence on impression formation and related organizational dynamics is based on attributes, homogeneity and conspicuousness, posited Anat Rafaeli of Technion, and Boston College’s Michael Pratt.

Michael Pratt

Michael Pratt

Clothing has been considered an important influence on others’ perception of the wearer, and Adam and Galinsky’s studies offer evidence that clothing can affect the wearer’s actual task performance.

-*How has clothing changed your workplace behavior and performance?
-*How do others treat you different depending on your attire?

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Managerial Gender Bias in Granting Flex Time, Backlash Against Men Flex-Time Seekers

Managers hold gender biases in granting flex time requests, and most employees inaccurately anticipate managers’ likelihood of approving these proposals, found Yale’s Victoria Brescoll with Jennifer Glass of University of Texas-Austin and Harvard’s Alexandra Sedlovskaya.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Men across job levels were more likely than women to receive flex time to pursue career advancement or to address family issues, found their survey of 76 managers.

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass

Men in high-status jobs were more likely receive approval for career development, and men in low-level jobs tended to get flex time for family issues.
Both groups were more likely than women to receive requested work schedule accommodations.

Women in low-status jobs with childcare requirements were among the least likely to receive accommodations from their managers.
In addition, all employees tended to overestimate the likelihood of receiving a flexible work schedule and underestimate “backlash” after the request.

Women in high-status jobs requesting flextime for career advancement were most likely to expect their requests would be granted, yet they had a lower approval rate than men in high-status jobs.
Conversely, these schedule-accommodated men were least likely to believe they would receive flextime for career development reasons, yet they often received approval.

Brescoll suggested that men in high-status positions who are granted flex time to pursue career development achieve more rapid career advancement.
In contrast, women in high-status roles who request flex time for the same purpose may “…be suspected of hiding the true reason for their request, or they may be viewed as less deserving of further training because it’s assumed that they’ll leave their jobs in the future.”

Women in the workplace encounter a “gendered wall of resistance” (schedule accommodation denials due to gender), whereas men face “status-specific resistance” (objections based on reason for flex time request), according to Brescoll.

Employees’ lack of awareness of managerial bias in granting flextime coupled with realistic concern about negative consequences of workplace accommodation requests can lead to lower productivity, unnecessary turnover and persistent social problems like child poverty and lack of upward mobility for low-wage workers.

Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In fact, volunteers attributed more “feminine” traits (weakness, uncertainty) and fewer “masculine” traits (competitiveness, ambition) to male leave requestors, found Laurie Rudman and Kris Mescher of Rutgers University.

Kris Mescher

Kris Mescher

Rudman and Mescher asked volunteers of both genders and diverse ethnic backgrounds to evaluate fictional vignettes concerning men who requested a 12-week family leave to care for a sick child or an ailing mother.

Participants attributed poor organizational citizenship (“bad worker stigma”) to men who requested family leave and recommended organizational penalties (e.g., demotion, layoff, ineligibility for bonus) for them.

When men were viewed with the “feminine stigma” of “weakness” and other traditionally-feminine characteristics, they were more likely to incur organizational penalties.

Joseph Vandello

Joseph Vandello

Jennifer Bosson

Jennifer Bosson

The impact of these stigmas on men seeking flexible work arrangements was confirmed in related research by University of South Florida’s Joseph Vandello, Vanessa Hettinger, Jennifer  Bosson, and Jasmine Siddiqi.

Their experimental study found that volunteers assigned lower job evaluations, less masculine and more feminine traits to employees who requested flex time than those with traditional work arrangements.

Jasmine Siddiqi

Jasmine Siddiqi

However, evaluators judged requestors as “warmer” and more “moral,” suggesting that flexibility-seeking employees may be more well-liked and judged as a desirable work colleague.

-*How do you counteract implicit biases in approving workplace flexibility arrangements?

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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?

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