Q: Do my personal qualities increase my attractiveness, or are women more interested in my looks?
A: Actually, some research suggests that your personal qualities can increase how your looks are perceived. Here’s some research on some old
A ton of research has been done on the “Halo Effect.” It’s been explained at RMRS plenty of times before.
But in short, the Halo Effect describes the way that one positive quality tends to “spill out” onto other positive qualities. If people see one good thing about you (attractiveness, skills, good personality traits, etc.) they are more likely to think that you’re good at other areas of your life too.
Plenty of research has linked physical attractiveness to perceptions of personality traits.
In other words, attractive people must be more skilled, smarter, better people, right?
But less research has been done on the other direction: maybe displaying positive personality traits might actually influence how attractive a person is perceived as?
A group of researchers sought to discover whether personality traits, including honesty, intelligence, and independence, causes a person to seem more attractive in other ways.
Their results were published in the Journal of Research in Personality in 2006.
The researchers recruited 256 psychology students to participate in this study. 106 were men and 150 were women.
Each participant received a random jumble of a description of a person. The jumble was composed of the following elements:
- A description of a male or female person.
- A description of the person as either high in intelligence or low in intelligence.
- A description of the person as independent or dependent on others.
- A description of the person as honest or dishonest.
- Some neutral “filler” information at the end.
For example, the participant could receive a description of a person who is male, with low intelligence, who is highly independent, and who is dishonest.
OR a person could receive a description of a person who is female, intelligent, dependent, and dishonest.
All the elements were random so there were 16 variations of person who is displayed to the participant.
After receiving a unique combination of descriptions, the participant was then asked to make several judgments about the person’s personality. They rated the people on:
- Calm vs. Anxious
- Unambitious vs. Ambitious
- Unsociable vs. Sociable
Likeable vs. Not Likeable (“Would you like this person as a friend).
Then, participants received a photograph of the person.
The participants were asked to rate the person on several facial features and general attractiveness.
The photographs were taken from an archive of stock photos. They were uncolored (just black and white), head and shoulders photos of people with neutral facial expressions. They were judged to be of average attractiveness before the study began.
The photographs presented to the participants were selected randomly (of course the sexes matched the descriptions).
The photographs were rated on attractiveness in the following way:
- Unattractive vs. Attractive
- Mature faced vs. Baby Faced
- Masculine vs. Feminine
- Mean vs. Kind
- Poor fitness vs. Good fitness
- Poor health vs. Good health
- Short vs. Tall
- Underweight vs. Overweight
The photographs were also rated on specific facial features, including sizes and shapes of facial features, bone structure, and symmetry.
As they hoped, the ratings of intelligence, honesty, and independence varied according to the descriptions.
In other words, when the person was described as unintelligent, the participants rated them as significantly less intelligent. This shows that the participants were paying attention and reading correctly.
Effect of honesty:
- Honesty changed how a person’s face was evaluated. When a person was described as more honest, their face was rated as having:
- Finer hair
- A more graceful neck
- More physically fit and healthy
- A kinder face
- More attractive
- These were attributed to both men and women who were described as honest.
Effects of intelligence and independence:
- Interestingly, intelligence and independence didn’t make that strong of a difference on their own. But when combined, they had some weird effects.
- Men and women with high intelligence AND high independence were seen as more attractive on a number of facial attributes.
- However, men and women with low intelligence AND high independence were seen as LESS attractive.
- Take a moment to think about this and it might make sense.
- People who are intelligent and independent are seen as go-getters who take care of themselves.
- People who are unintelligent but also independent are seen as dangerous loners.
- The researchers suggested that if a person was described as honest, or if a person was described as being high on intelligence and independence, it increased how much a participant liked the person.
- This liking, in turn, caused them to rate the photographs as more attractive.
- Here’s a simple way to say what the study found:
- We like people who are honest.
- We like people who are intelligent and independent.
- We are attracted to people we like.
- Thus, one further way to increase your attractiveness with others is to improve your virtues.
- Specifically, be more honest.
- It also helps to be both intelligent and independent.
Paunonen, S. V. (2006). You are honest, therefore I like you and find you attractive. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 237-249. Link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0092656606000043