It’s commonly accepted that there’s a benefit to being beautiful. Known as the beauty premium, the idea that good looks pay off has been evident in the workplace and in daily life. As Newsweek reported, good-looking people supposedly make more money; have a less grueling job search; and overall receive better treatment in almost every aspect of their lives.
But a new study dispels this belief, claiming it’s not as simple as being pretty or not. Evolutionary Psychologist Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, PhD and marketing professor Mary Still, PhD, analyzed data that measured physical attractiveness, health, intelligence, personality traits and salary. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, thousands of subjects were interviewed during a 13-year span, ending when they were 29.
They found that people with higher salaries had better personalities, were healthier and more intelligent. They just happened to also be more attractive, too. Those who were more attractive were more conscientious, extraverted and less neurotic, according to the generally accepted Big Five model of personality.
"These personality traits probably make these individuals more pleasant to work with, and, as a result, they are probably more sought out as colleagues and employees," explains Kanazawa in an email to Medical Daily.
Health was assessed by a self-reported evaluation and intelligence was determined using verbal intelligence and word recall tests. Personality traits was based off the generally accepted model known as the Big Five, which includes openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
Surprisingly, there was evidence that it can actually pay to be less attractive. Respondents who were deemed "very unattractive" always earned more than those who were considered “unattractive.” The researchers found that less attractive people could sometimes benefit compared to average and attractive respondents, too.
"Very unattractive individuals have higher intelligence and achieve greater education, and their higher earnings are direct consequences of their higher human capital," Kanazawa says of the research.
What the study does not determine is whether attractive people exhibit these positive traits due to special treatment they receive based on looks, as the authors note in the paper. According to Kanazawa, personality traits are roughly 50 percent heritable and generaly stable over one's lifetime. However, a study on the American Psychological Association website indicates that our personalities get better as we age and become more conscientious. So, there's still hope of increasing your paycheck no matter how attractive you are.