Beauty, conformity go hand-in-hand

By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof | Posted - Nov 9th, 2012 @ 8:36pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Beautiful women may make more money, be more likely to be hired and promoted, but they are also less likely to be independent and are more likely to conform.

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, Revisited,” a recently published study in the Psychological Science journal, found that women who are perceived as attractive are more likely to conform to social expectations.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Open University of Israel and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, looked at 118 university-aged women as "targets" and assigned another 118 male and female students as judges.

The targets answered a questionnaire about their values and traits before reading a weather report in front of a video camera, recording them as they entered the room and read the report. Values were defined as “desirable, trans-situational goals that serve as guiding principles in people’s lives,” whereas researchers defined traits as “enduring dispositions, reflected in consistent patterns of cognition, emotion and behavior.”

When physical attractiveness leads to the attainment of important values, people are are likely to invest in becoming more attractive.

–Lihi Segal-Caspi, researcher

Judges then watched the videotaped weather reports, evaluated the target’s values and traits and assessed the targets’ attractiveness and other physical attributes in a questionnaire.

What they found, wrote lead researcher Lihi Segal-Caspi, was that “values, as representations of motivational goals, affect women’s investment in their physical attractiveness.”

Their motivation to invest in their beauty may be well-founded, too. A 2010 Newsweek survey of corporate hiring managers showed that attractive people are more likely to be promoted. Business Insider reported last year that beautiful people typically make 10 to 15 percent more than their unattractive counterparts. Attractiveness is often correlated with competency, a study out of Duke University found.

Some experts, like sociology professor Catherine Hakim, who authored the book “Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom,” encourages women to use attractiveness and sex appeal to get ahead, saying that ''beauty premium'' is an important economic asset.

“When physical attractiveness leads to the attainment of important values, people are are likely to invest in becoming more attractive,” wrote Segal-Caspi.

On the other hand, researchers wrote, the beautiful strive for conformity and have less tolerance for people who are different.

Women who value universalism, they noted, "are likely to advocate tolerance toward various styles of appearance. They are less likely to invest in becoming attractive according to social standards, and may hence be seen as less attractive."

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