Dion, K., Berscheid, E., & Walster, E. (1972). What is beautiful is good. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 24(3), 285-290.

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People often make attributional judgments about others based on very little information. Given that physical appearance and attractiveness is one of the first things that people notice when meeting others, Dion and colleagues wanted to investigate whether people stereotype based on physical attractiveness. Specifically, they found evidence that supports the claim that physically attractive women and men are perceived as having more socially desirable personality traits, and having more successful jobs and relationships than unattractive people. To test this, they presented subjects with photographs of men and women and had participants rate the targets on a variety of personality traits. Participants also made estimates regarding marital happiness, life fulfillment, and how likely the target was to be employed in a variety of high, medium, and low status jobs.

Although many people would like to probably like to believe that we judge people based on their personal merits and accomplishments, this classic article was one of the first to show that physical appearance and beauty affect our perceptions about others’ personalities and likelihood of success.


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