Tag Archives: Marko Pitesa

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

Sun Young Lee

Sun Young Lee

Previous blog posts documented bias in favor of attractive people for hiring, venture funding decisions, and positive impressions by others.

In contrast, capable yet less attractive individuals may encounter “workplace attractiveness discrimination,” reported 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

Their four studies found that people making employment decisions show systematic selection bias based on perceived attractiveness and organizational context.

Differential impact of attractiveness in employment and work task situation was linked to status generalization and interpersonal interdependence, in research by Lee’s team.

Murray Webster

Murray Webster

Status generalization occurs when describes observers associate unrelated characteristics like gender, ethnicity, national origin and attractiveness, with behavioral expectations for performance.

These associations can occur without conscious, logical or evidential basis, and lead to group inequalities, according to University of South Carolina’s Murray Webster and Martha Foschi.

James Driskell

James Driskell

Even irrelevant status characteristics also significantly affected face-to-face interactions in group task studies by Webster and University of South Carolina colleague James Driskell.

Martha Foschi

Martha Fosch

Lee’s team posited that decision makers unconsciously drew on status generalization when they associated attractiveness with competence in male but not in female candidates.
They argued that interpersonal interdependence affects people’s expectations of interpersonal relationships, and their choices of relational action based on perceived attractiveness, according to UCLA’s Harold Kelley and John Thibaut of University of North Carolina.

John Thibault

John Thibault

Lee’s group evaluated these ideas by assigning male and female volunteers to simulated employment selection situations in which participants interviewed and provided “hiring recommendations” for “job candidates.”
Interviewers were in cooperative and competitive situations with these candidates because they would be collaborating for shared team rewards yet competing for recognition, promotions, commissions, and bonuses.

Participants read a scenario describing different types of interdependencies between themselves as decision-makers and the person to be hired, including competitive, cooperative, and no interdependence.

Madan Pillutla

Madan Pillutla

Volunteers evaluated two similar resumes accompanied by photos of 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 less frequently recommended attractive male candidates for employment, suggesting a systematic bias 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, education and a 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 were affected by the selection decision.

These studies suggest 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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©Kathryn Welds

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