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Being Beautiful Doesn’t Always Help

Being Beautiful Doesn't Always HelpWe often hear of how beautiful people seem to get all the breaks — first through the door at nightclubs, being chosen to be on a team or as a friend based upon looks alone, even getting a date just because of your physical beauty. But as previous research has shown, sometimes being beautiful can put a person at greater risk while they try and attain an ideal of beauty that doesn’t exist.

Now new research suggests another barrier faced by some of the beautiful people — applying for a job. In the study, attractive women were discriminated against when applying for jobs considered “masculine” and for which appearance was not seen as important to the job. Such positions included job titles like manager of research and development, director of finance, mechanical engineer and construction supervisor.

Should we feel sorry for these beautiful people?

Or should we chalk it up not so much to “discrimination,” as the headline suggests, as simply that sometimes people use tried and true stereotypes when categorizing people they have otherwise little information or knowledge of (as this research did). I mean, look at how the study was conducted:

In one experiment, participants were given a list of jobs and photos of applicants and told to sort them according to their suitability for the job. They had a stack of 55 male and 55 female photos.

In job categories like director of security, hardware salesperson, prison guard and tow truck driver, attractive women were overlooked. In each of these jobs appearance was perceived to be unimportant.

Attractive women tended to be sorted into positions like receptionist or secretary.

How is this a real-world test of anything? People generally don’t get a job or not get a job based upon looks alone — there’s another thing called the interview and interpersonal qualities typically used. And another thing called a resume and previous experience, all of which come into play when choosing one person or another for a position.

The researchers apparently “chided” those who let stereotypes come into play in their decision-making process. But when given nothing but photos (no resumes, no interview, no experience background), what else would you expect? Previous psychological studies into how we categorize and look at others would predict this outcome — we use categories as mental shortcuts to help us process information more quickly and easily.

I think all this study demonstrated was that people can readily use stereotypes when the task demands it of them, nothing more.

Read the full article: Pretty Women Face Discrimination

Being Beautiful Doesn’t Always Help

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Being Beautiful Doesn’t Always Help. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 9 Aug 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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