The Unattractive Bias: Women More Likely To Shun Homely Guys After They 'Misbehave'

ugly dude selfie
Ugly men who commit social violations are considered in an even more negative light — compared to attractive guys who do something wrong, who seem to get away with it. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Sadly, outward appearance sometimes plays a large role in how you’re perceived — during job interviews, interactions with cops and judges, and of course, the dating scene. A new study out of the Eastern Kentucky University finds that unattractive men are more likely to be shunned by women if they “mess up,” whereas more attractive men are often protected from a ruined reputation by their good looks.

The study, led by Jeremy Gibson and Jonathan Gore, examines the way unattractiveness fosters a “negative bias” toward the male from the opposite sex. They also wanted to discover how a faux pas, or a social/legal violation of some sort, would affect the female’s perspective of the man — whether he was deemed handsome or homely.

“In addition to unattractiveness, the violation of social norms has been known to act as a cue for this negative bias,” the authors write in the abstract. Thus, they assumed that whether a man was attractive or ugly, violating social norms would paint either of them as a “devil” and create a negative bias. They found, however, that a mess-up only cast a shadow on unattractive men.

The researchers examined responses of 170 college women who looked at two male faces, then were paired with written situations — one involved committing a social faux-pas, and the other didn’t. It turns out that violating a social norm was considered way more off-putting when the man was unattractive — giving him a double negative bias. Handsome men, on the other hand, didn’t experience as much of a negative bias when doing something wrong.

“The unattractive male is tolerated up to a point; his unattractiveness is OK until he misbehaves,” Gibson said in the press release.

In another recent study, researchers found that women were more likely to scorn an unattractive suitor after they were rejected by a more attractive male themselves. And Gibson and Gore believe that in a legal setting, unattractive people won’t be released as easily as attractive ones.

“A man who stands trial has already shown himself to have violated social norms in one way or another,” Gore said in the press release. “If he is also unattractive, the magnified devil effect may result in a larger fine or sentence, as it could influence how negatively jurors view him and, as a result, the degree to which they believe him guilty of the crime.”

So do homely guys always get the short end of the stick? Not necessarily — especially if they're nice. While women may prefer the "bad boys" initially, they'll soon find that crying into their pillow every night isn't the definition of true, requited love and may search for a more stable, kind partner.

Source: Gibson L, Gore J. You’re OK until You Misbehave: How Norm Violations Magnify the Attractiveness Devil Effect. Gender Issues. 2015.

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