We are taught from an age that beauty is equivalent to good. In the Disney movies that many of us saw while growing up, the hero and heroine were always conventionally attractive, while the villains always had faces to match their evil schemes. Even Beauty and the Beast in which one the eponymous characters is a beast turns out to be attractive at the end.
So it is no wonder that research has found that we put attractive people on a pedestal, giving them good qualities like "virtuous" and "kind." However, new research emerging from Israel has found that the pedestal is undeserved. Beautiful people, psychologists say, are more likely to be conformist and less likely to be empathetic.
The experiment, which took place in Israel, asked 236 university students to fill out a questionnaire that researchers used to uncover their real personality traits and value systems. Half of the students, all women, were videotaped for a minute while reading the weather and walking around a table. The other half of students (59 percent female, and 41 percent male) were assigned the task of watching these tapes and assigning them personality traits based on their appearance.
The students assigned favorable personality traits to the better looking people, saying that they tended to be more agreeable, outgoing, emotionally stable, hardworking, and open to new experiences. However, those personality traits did not vary across attractiveness lines, according to the self-assessments.
The values, based on the questionnaires, revealed a different picture. Women who were considered more attractive were more likely to value conformity to social expectations, and self-promotion over concern for others.
This data is not necessarily surprising. From an early age, beautiful people are often doted on more than other people, which could cause them to be more likely to conform. Self-promotion is in line with narcissism; similarly, beautiful people are often seen as special, which might cause them to become narcissistic.
But researchers do not know which factor causes the other. Are beautiful people more self-involved, or are self-involved people more likely to take care of their appearance? And does the research, which focused on women, also hold true for men? Further research may tell us.
The study was published in Psychological Science.