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Features : Editorial Last Updated: Dec 19, 2012 - 9:55:07 AM


Attractive people: are they also beautiful inside?
By Steve Ferber
Dec 19, 2012 - 9:54:07 AM

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It’s a common notion – when you see an attractive person, you tend to judge them to be kinder, more gentle, more understanding and sympathetic. But is it true? Do attractive people have more positive traits and values? In short, do beauty and goodness go together?  
Possibly not, according to one recent study conducted by two Israeli professors. They concluded: “ . . . our findings suggest that the beautiful strive for conformity rather than independence and for self-promotion rather than tolerance.” The study was conducted by Sonia Roccas of the Open University of Israel and Lilach Sagiv of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (One notable caveat: the study involved only women, yet the study abstract spoke in terms of “attractive people,” leading to the obvious question: do these results hold for men as well?).  
Psychologists call the phenomenon the “what is beautiful is good” stereotype, and it’s well documented.  People tend to perceive attractive adults as more social, successful and well-adjusted. To test the stereotype, Roccas and Sagiv sought to answer two related questions: 1. How does perceived attractiveness relate to perceived personality? and 2. How does perceived attractiveness relate to actual personality. To examine this, they asked study participants to self-rate their own traits and values. Here’s what they found, according to a write-up at sciencedaily.com (study participants, or “judges,” were asked to evaluate women (the “targets”) on video, doing a weather forecast):
“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 . . .. But when the researchers looked at the targets’ actual self-reported traits and values, they found the opposite relationships . . .. Women who were rated as attractive were more likely to endorse values focused on conformity and submission to social expectations and self-promotion.
Surprising results?
In a comment forum at the web site unexplained-mysteries.com, one person asked whether the inverse might be true, that is, do people perceive unattractive people to have unattractive traits.  
Another commenter, surprised at the study findings, posed this view: “You would think self-promotion would be less needed if one is attractive, so that was a surprise to me.  The attractive people I know in a professional capacity are more quiet about themselves.  The conformity trait does ring true though. In my experience very attractive people get a lot of positive feedback no matter what they do.  That surely screws them up in the head in many ways.”
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