The Coco Chanel Effect; are Pretty People More Persuasive?
Nature gives you the face you have at 20; it is up to you to merit the face you have at 50. — Coco Chanel
Today we’re talking mostly about beauty and whether those blessed with it get a better deal than their less attractive peers.
At least some of the answers to that question can be found in Coco Chanel’s famous comment about beauty quoted above.
But first the research.
Beauty is a Powerful Tool of Persuasion
Assuming that the “hits” a quality-describing word elicits from a search engine indicate the relative importance the quality described, I recently googled “beauty” and “intelligence.”
Beauty edged out intelligence by only a slight margin — garnering 697 million to the 652 million hits generated by intelligence. For what it’s worth, people apparently aren’t so interested in coupling these two qualities.
Searching both beauty and intelligence offered up only 26 million hits.
Many beautiful young women (and that’s pretty much all young women, ladies) assume that men fascinated by their beauty will not respect their intelligence. And that makes them angry. The research should help defuse that knee-jerk response.
Physically Attractive People Presumed to Be More Intelligent
In the early 1980′s, social science researchers found that physically attractive people are not only considered more intelligent and competent than their less fetching peers, but are presumed to be more competent in fields completely unrelated to physical attractiveness — such as piloting an airplane.
Other research studies followed, showing that we also expect physically attractive men and women to be more trustworthy, reliable and charitable than their less attractive peers, as well as better educated, stronger, and wiser.
Studies on electoral habits have shown that attractive candidates receive as many as two and a half times the number of votes as unattractive candidates and that voters do not realize their bias. Whether this confirms or disproves the adage that politics is show business for ugly people is up to you.
Beauty and Justice
The influence of beauty does not stop at the political choices we make. Our judicial process is also susceptible to the influences of body dimension and bone structure.
Researchers have found that attractive male criminal defendants are twice as likely to avoid jail time as unattractive miscreants. That’s why trial lawyers dress their clients up.
The relative good looks of civil litigants also influences juries, which award twice the damages when plaintiff is better looking than the defendant and half the compensation when the defendant is more physically attractive than the plaintiff.
As Robert Cialdini wrote:
Good looking people enjoy an enormous social advantage in our culture. They are better liked, more persuasive, more frequently assisted, and seen as possessing more desirable personality traits and greater intellectual capacities.
It appears that the social benefits of good looks begin to accumulate quite early. Research on elementary school children show that adults view aggressive acts as less naughty when performed by an attractive child and that teachers presume good-looking children to be more intelligent that their less attractive classmates.