Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Eye of the Beholder, Revisited

There's an interesting article in the current issue of Newsweek magazine: The Beauty Advantage. It's a penetrating look at how beauty (or the reverse) can affect your job and your life in general.

We all appreciate good-looking people. Young men don't spend a lot of time pursuing women they don't think are attractive, and young women tend not to shower their affections on men that aren't conventionally handsome. Years of studies of people of all ages have shown that we have a built-in bias toward people who meet our standards of appearance ... even babies have been shown to look longer at good-looking faces.

This is probably why I have a lot more female friends now that I'm a bit older and more ... um ... seasoned than when I was a gawky, geeky high school senior.

We tend to attribute good qualities - more intelligence, better leadership abilities, and so on - to those who are better-looking. Imagine a presidential contest today between Abraham Lincoln ...

and, say, John F. Kennedy...

All other things being equal, which do you think would win in an age dominated by television imagery and the emphasis on "beautiful people?" The television series "Ugly Betty" was built around the concept of beautiful - vs - not-beautiful ladies and their successes and failures in the fashion industry.

We make light of it, but it's a serious topic. Both formal studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that unattractive people tend to have a harder time getting jobs; conversely, it appears to be easier for an attractive woman willing to "show off her figure" to land a good position than for one who is heavier or otherwise less attractive. Fair? No. To be expected? Probably.

We're drawn to people and things we find attractive, while we tend to avoid those we don't. Does it mean we're bad people? Probably not, at least not intentionally. What it does mean is that we should recognize the problem and make a special effort to avoid unconsciously discriminating against the less-attractive.

After all, I may need a job some day, and I'd hate to have to compete with the Beautiful People for the right to flip burgers at McDonald's.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

4 comments:

Mike said...

I went link hopping again and found a bunch of videos about DL. As some of the comments in the first article said, she's average.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LhsEWMFeIQ

Gotfam said...

I wonder if showing more cleavage would have made us think sarah palin was less crazy. Probably not huh?

Bilbo said...

Mike - you need to get your link-hopping under control.

Gotfam - Not a chance.

KathyA said...

Very interesting - provocative, even! I wonder how Lincoln would fend in an election now -- especially with the symptoms of Marfan's Syndrome being well known...