Do good-looking people have attractive traits and values?
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Despite being warned not to "judge a book by its cover," we inevitably do it anyway, and it gets difficult to resist the temptation of assuming that a person's outward appearance reflects something meaningful about his or her inner personality.
Research shows that people tend to perceive attractive adults as more social, successful, and well-adjusted than less attractive adults, a phenomenon that's been termed the "what is beautiful is good" stereotype.
Authors Lihi Segal-Caspi and Sonia Roccas of the Open University and Lilach Sagiv of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem investigated whether the stereotype holds up in the real world or not.
The researchers examined how traits, which describe what people are like, and values, which describe what people consider important, might be related to physical attractiveness.
Segal-Caspi and colleagues hypothesized that outside observers would perceive attractive women as more likely to have socially desirable personality traits than less attractive women.
Specifically, they hypothesized that observers would judge attractive women to be more agreeable, extraverted, conscientious, open to experiences, and emotionally stable than less attractive women.
They hypothesized that no such correlation would be found between women's attractiveness and their perceived values, since judgments about what constitutes a "good" value are likely to vary from observer to observer.
The researchers recruited 118 university students to serve as "targets" or "judges." The targets completed surveys about their values and their traits.
They were then videotaped entering a room, walking around a table looking at the camera, reading a weather forecast, and leaving the room.
Each judge saw a videotape of a different target, chosen at random, and evaluated the target's values and traits and then her attractiveness, along with other physical attributes.
Women who were rated as attractive were perceived as having more socially desirable personality traits, such as extraversion, openness to experience, and conscientiousness, just as the researchers hypothesized.
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