Physical Attractiveness as a
Factor in Employment and First Impressions
Advanced Placement Psychology
October 21, 2002
Attractiveness as a Factor in Employment
and First Impressions
People tend to judge others
based on their physical attributes. Previous
studies have shown that attractiveness is an important factor for hiring
employees in certain types of jobs. According
to Byrne, Ervin, and Lamberth (1970, cited in Hill and Lando, 1976, p.12),
“Empirical research has demonstrated both that the physically attractive
individual has advantages over his or her physically unattractive
counterpart.” The sad truth of
the matter is that first impressions of physical attractiveness do count for a
lot in our society. We categorize
people by their appearance.
We judge people’s attractiveness in many different ways (different
cultures find different features attractive) but there are a few features that
are found physically attractive across cultures.
For example, people are attracted to neither unusually small nor
unusually large features, but rather to symmetrical and mundane
features. Zajonc (1998) found that
first impressions are so important that we “can judge someone’s looks after
but a 0.15-second glimpse" (cited in Myers, 2001. p. 182).
experimenters have tested this theory. In
Dion, Berscheid and Walster’s famous study, they discovered that people who
are more attractive are considered to have more positive traits than those who
are less attractive (1972, cited in Bardack and McAndrew, 1985).
This may account for why attractive people seem to have an easier time in
social situations and in finding a job,
even though they may not be as qualified as a less attractive peer.
According to Hill and Lando (1976, p. 13), an attractive female photograph,
“was assigned higher ratings of both happiness and intelligence” than an
unattractive female photograph. But
the results for males were significantly different.
it comes to judging people, the “beauty is good” phenomenon seems to hold
primarily for females rather than males (Hill and Lando, 1976, p.14).
This shows that women's personalities and qualifications seem to be
judged more based on appearance than men's.
Gillen (cited in Cash and Janda, 1984, p. 25) speculated that “attractive
people posses two types of ‘goodness,’ one related to and the other
unrelated to their sex”. Less
attractive women, for example, were rated as less feminine than their attractive
counterparts (Gillen cited in Cash and Janda, 1984).
With this in mind, Cash and Janda (1984, p. 25) decided to test whether good
looks are a disadvantage for women in work situations;
situations in which “stereotypically masculine traits - such as being strong,
independent and decisive – are thought to be required for success.”
They found that this was true. Less attractive women were hired more for
managerial (masculine) positions and more attractive women were hired for
clerical (feminine) work.
are several factors that play into our hypothesis about attractiveness as
related to employment. One is when
presented with equally qualified male and female candidates for a
teaching position, people will tend to hire the male candidate instead of the
female. When faced with the
decision to hire a more attractive man or a less attractive man, despite the
fact that the two are equally qualified, people will choose the more attractive
man. Because the candidates are
competing for a teaching position rather than a managerial one, people will also
be likely to hire a more attractive woman than a less attractive woman.
M. D., Smith, R. H., & Klotz, M. L. (1986). Judgments of
physical attractiveness: The
role of faces and bodies.
and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12(4),
N. R., & McAndrew, F. T. (1985). The influence of
physical attractiveness and
manner of dress on success in a simulated
personnel decision. Journal of Social Psychology, 125(6), 777-778.
T., & Janda, L. (1984, December). The eye of the beholder.
M. K., & Lando, H. A. (1976). Physical attractiveness and
sex-role stereotypes in
impression formation. Perceptual and Motor
M., Melhado, M. B., Curado Coehlo, M. M., Otta, E.
(1992). Influence of style of
dress on formation of first impressions.
and Motor Skills, 74(1), 159-162.
Solomon, M. (1987, December). Psychology