The Advantages (and Disadvantages) Of Being Excessively Handsome

Do attractive people have an advantage? Beauty, seen under the magnifying glass of science.

Beauty is a concept that is always difficult to tackle. Each culture establishes the parameters of what it considers beautiful in each of the areas where beauty can play a role: not only in the art world, but also in human beings.

Thus, certain facial, body and communicative features are associated, according to each culture and historical moment, with greater beauty. Handsome individuals are those who, by social consensus, are seen as more desirable and physically attractive, and may be the center of attention and comments much more frequently than other less handsome people.

Related article:  “Does physical matter when it comes to flirting? 3 reflections on beauty”

Beautiful people: is it all positive?

A priori, it seems that being handsome only has advantages: greater attention, the benefits of the halo effect, and greater possibilities of relating to others while making a good impression. However, several investigations put some nuances and point out some negative aspects that “suffer” people with an above-average beauty.

A series of scientific investigations have tried to find out what are the advantages and disadvantages of being handsome or pretty. For example, a study published in Sociology Compass that was developed at the University of North Carolina analyzed the social impact of beauty in various historical stages, to later compare them with each other.

They found several surprising results. Beauty was not only an important factor in society in general, but could predict various phenomena in people considered “very beautiful.”

Advantages of being handsome

Of course,  being physically attractive has a number of benefits for life. This is where we refer to the halo effect again. Beautiful people benefit from this cognitive bias, which means that, based on their “beautiful” positive trait, others perceive them as more generous, kind and trustworthy. Starting from a single positive trait, we tend to generalize the virtues in that same individual, even though we do not have the necessary information to reach that hasty conclusion.

In this sense, the beauty is also socially perceived as a sign of social status. Although it is clearly nonsense, the truth is that we tend to attribute qualities such as kindness or generosity to beautiful people, and treat them in a more deferential and gentle way.

Although there is no scientific data to support it, there is a hypothesis, widespread in the legal and judicial world, that beautiful people tend to receive lighter sentences compared to ugly people, even though the circumstances of the crime could have been very similar .

Benefits caused by cognitive biases

In the same study by Walker and Frevert, other data of interest were reported. Physically attractive college students tended to be viewed as more competent and intelligent than less handsome ones.

All this excess of attention, approval and acceptance that beautiful people receive over time has an effect on their own personality. This is also an interesting question to analyze. They tend to be individuals with more confidence in themselves, and even have better salaries (statistically speaking), according to one of the authors of the study. The difference in wages between beautiful people and unattractive people could range between 10 and 20% in favor of the former.

Disadvantages of being handsome

Although we have discovered a few positive aspects of being physically attractive so far, beauty can actually be a hindrance or a negative factor in other contexts.

Individuals who have suffered  workplace harassment (mobbing), especially when it is sexually motivated, can account for it. This type of sexual harassment in the workplace especially targets young and attractive women.

Research conducted in 1985 found that people tend to leave a greater physical distance from beautiful people when they walk down the street. This has two readings: on the one hand it can be considered a kind of symbol of respect, but it can also be understood as a tendency to exclude attractive people. It is as if the handsome men and women have a kind of superior halo that other people perceive as inaccessible.

In fact, dating site psychologists and programmers often explain that the user profiles that get the most attention and dating aren’t the ones with the most perfect and alluring photos. This could be explained by the principle of inaccessibility that we have previously explained: users with more “normal” photos can benefit from this greater psychological predisposition to want to meet people who seem accessible to us, even if they are not so pretty.

Being handsome, a possible obstacle when looking for work

We have all faced a job interview on occasion, an  essential obstacle to access a good job. 

In interviews, beauty can be more of an obstacle, especially if the interviewer is of the same sex. This could be due to a kind of unconscious protection against sexual competition, as a new worker with superior physical attributes may present some kind of unwanted competition. These are attitudes and decisions that operate at an intuitive level, but it is possible that in the business world there is a certain reluctance to give credibility to potential employees with great physical attractiveness.

Various conclusions and reflections on beauty

As we have seen, beauty is a cultural construct that, whether we like it or not, has a not inconsiderable impact on our daily lives.  

The important thing is not to obsess at any time about our physical appearance, we have been more or less graceful by mother nature. Knowing these scientific data about the advantages and disadvantages of being handsome can help us try to overcome the pitfalls that we can suffer whether we are on one side or the other. 

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