The Effect of Attractiveness on Job Success

I have been reading a ton of research on how nonverbal communication effects or is effected by technologically based interactions. This is for a client that will video tape my presentation this afternoon. I have a link to a great study.

The effects of physical attractiveness on job-related outcomes is particularly interesting. I talk about the effect of attractiveness quite a bit. This article has a great review of the literature. I am interested in the research showing that, "What is beautiful is good."

"Substantial empirical evidence and three meta-analyses have firmly established the existence and validity of a "what-is- beautiful-is-good stereotype" (e.g., Dion, Berscheid, & Walster, 1972; Eagly et al, 1991; Feingold, 1992; Jackson et al., 1995). For example, meta-analyses by Eagly et al. (1991) and Feingold (1992) showed that attractiveness has (a) a strong effect on perceptions of social competence, social skills, and sexual warmth, (b) a moderate effect on perceptions of intellectual competence, potency, adjustment, dominance, and general mental health, and (c) a weak effect on perceptions of integrity and concern for others. In addition, sex-of-target differences were observed for the perceptions of sexual warmth and intellectual competence. More specifically, the effects of attractiveness on perceptions of sexual warmth were stronger for women than for men (Feingold, 1992). However, the effects of attractiveness on perceptions of intellectual competence were stronger for men than for women (Jackson et al., 1995).

Furthermore, more recent meta-analyses (Langlois et al., 2000) have shown that (a) following actual interaction with others, perceivers judge attractive individuals more positively (e.g., in terms of interpersonal competence, occupational competence, social appeal, adjustment) and treat them more favorably (e.g., visual/ social attention, positive interaction, reward, help/cooperation, acceptance) than less attractive individuals, and (b) attractive individuals experience more positive outcomes in life (e.g., occupational success, popularity, dating experience, sexual experience, physical health) than less attractive individuals."
The effects of physical attractiveness on job-related outcomes
Posted on: Friday, 11 July 2003, 06:00 CDT

Attractiveness can have a nontrivial, positive impact on individuals' job-related outcomes, even when job- relevant information about them is available to decision makers.

In spite of this study's failure to find a moderating effect of individuating information on the relationship between attractiveness and various job-related outcomes, we believe that this type of information can reduce the degree of reliance that decision makers place on attractiveness. Moreover, we suspect that our failure to find a moderating effect may have been attributable to two factors. First, our study may not have had enough statistical power to detect the effect. Second, the rather crude way in which the individuating information variable was operationalized in our study may have led to the failure to find such an effect.

Between- Versus Within-Subjects Designs

Our meta-analysis showed that the effect of attractiveness may be especially pronounced in research calling for evaluators to sequentially observe and evaluate several individuals who differ in terms of attractiveness (e.g., as is true of research using within- subjects designs). Under such conditions, differences in attractiveness among targets are likely to be more salient than when only one target is observed and evaluated (e.g., as is true of research using between-subjects designs). The same results are consistent with those of studies by Eagly et al. (1991) and Olian et al. (1988). However, similar to a note of caution advanced by Olian et al. (1988), we recognize that this study's findings may not generalize to actual employment situations. The reason for this is that the studies considered by our meta-analysis involved research in which participants made judgments about hypothetical, as opposed to actual, job applicants or incumbents. Nevertheless, it deserves noting that the strategy followed in research using within-subjects designs more closely reflects what occurs in "real world" selection contexts than that followed in research using between-subjects designs (e.g., Olian et al., 1988). That is, organizational decision makers typically evaluate two or more job applicants or job incumbents within a relatively short time interval. Thus, we believe that the closer in time two or more applicants or incumbents are evaluated by raters (e.g., personnel interviewers), the greater will be the bias in ratings attributable to differences in attractiveness among them.

Time Period of Attractiveness Research

As noted above, our meta-analysis showed differences in the magnitude of the attractiveness effect as a function of period during which studies were published: The strength of the same bias during the 1995-1999 period was smaller than the strength of the bias for the 1975-1979 and 1980-1984 periods (p < .01). These results suggest that the strength of attractiveness bias has decreased in recent years. However, at this point in time, the reasons for this decrease are not known.