The Echoes of the Mind (137-4-1) Attractiveness Stereotype

 Attractiveness Stereotype

People often facilely link physical allure – especially an attractive face – to a wide variety of positive attributes. This bias is the attractiveness stereotype.

The social advantages of being physically attractive – including employment and mating opportunities – are enormous. Understandably, going through life as attractive helps self-esteem.

Tradition has it that fat men are jolly and generous, that lean men are dour, that short men are aggressive, and that strong men are silent and confident. ~ William Sheldon

In a study of simulated juries 93% of participants said that physical appearance should not bias verdicts. They then proceeded to evaluate attractive people as less likely to be guilty, and given less severe punishments, than those less attractive.

Such treatment begins in childhood. Adults react more leniently to bad behavior by an attractive child than to the same act by an unappealing youngster.

Of children with identical academic records, teachers evaluate cute ones as smarter than those who are unattractive. This bias translates into consequence.

Teacher’s expectations have an enormous impact on student’s performance. ~ American sociologists Margaret Clifford & Elaine Walster

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Following in the footsteps of Galton, American psychologist William Sheldon was interested in the influence of body type on intelligence, behavior, and social standing. In the 1940s he classified 3 basic body types: ectomorphs, mesomorphs, and endomorphs. Sheldon called these somatotypes.

An ectomorph is gracile. A mesomorph has an athletic build. An endomorph is wide-bodied and rotund.

Sheldon hypothesized that body type and personality were correlated. Sheldon’s work was criticized as biased and even fraudulent, but his ideas are commonly accepted. (Sheldon’s assistant, Barbara Roll, publicly denounced Sheldon for falsifying the data he used, and having his conclusions set before finishing his research.)

People believe that different temperaments go with different body builds. ~ American psychologists William Wells & Bertram Siegel

People tend to discriminate by body type, particularly against endomorphs, who are stereotypically perceived as indolent, sloppy, slow, and stupid.

Male ectomorphs are stereotypically considered skittish and frail, but also studious and intelligent. Female ectomorphs share the stereotype to a degree, but are perceived much more positively than males, partly because many people, particularly women, desire to be thin, and thin women are generally considered attractive.

Mesomorphs are the most positively perceived group, considered powerful and healthy. Mesomorphs are frequently chosen as leaders. One the flip side, attractive mesomorphs may be saddled with a perceived vanity preconception. The more athletic ones face the dumb jock stereotype.

There appears to be an innate quality to these attributions, as both children and adults tend toward the foregoing stereotypes. By a blend of cultural and biological inclination physique is subject to stereotypic prejudices.

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Sometimes we either gravitate toward people or away from them not because of a large prejudice but just because there’s something a little bit more- or less-familiar about them. ~ Anne Wilson

Similarity is familiarity, which typically goes down well.

People tend to think that someone who looks a little more like them is more likely to think like them. If you expect someone to be more like you, you might behave toward them in a more open and likable way. ~ Anne Wilson

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Even teachers think that physically attractive students are smarter, with more academic potential and better social skills.

Stereotypes can create self-fulfilling prophecies. Treating an attractive child as intelligent may improve savvy through bolstered self-esteem, thereby attaining a consistency with expectations. Physically unattractive people tend to be bullied at work: abuse that can only hurt job performance.

Of course, first impressions may mislead, and are not necessarily lasting. With greater exposure, the power of appearance can attenuate. Bias yields to actuality, whereupon personal and relational cues channel the course of an interpersonal relationship.

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Stereotype often determines the nature of encounters, and whether they even occur. Many relationships begin with anticipation formed by stereotypic attraction.

The old adage you can’t judge a book by its cover may be good advice, but it is difficult to follow. ~ American psychologist Vicki Ritts et al