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8 Sep 2011

Beauty as Power (Pt 4): Subliminal Influence

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series Beauty as Power

Beauty’s power often influences us without our knowledge and thus distorts our decisions. In other words, we think we are making them based upon objective criteria, but we’re not. In order to understand this better, it helps to see beauty beyond something feminine and physical.

In the August 27, 2011 issue of The Economist, “The Line of Beauty” reviews three books examining the “economics of good looks.” While it focuses on physical attractiveness and implies it’s somewhat the same as beauty, it includes a masculine aspect to the concept. For instance, it cites:

  • Homely NFL quarterbacks earn less than their comelier counterparts, despite identical yards passed and years in the league.
  • Attractive people also have an easier time getting a loan than plain folks, even as they are less likely to pay it back.
  • [Attractive people] receive milder prison sentences and higher damages in simulated legal proceedings.
  • . . . looks have a bigger impact on earnings than education . . .

However, the real point is that beauty applies much of this power below our consciousness. For example, in none of the citations above did anyone think these:

  • Quarterbacks are attractive so we should pay them more.
  • Loan applicants are attractive so we should give them a loan.
  • Prisoners are attractive so they should get milder sentences.
  • Plaintiffs are attractive so they should get higher damages.
  • Employees are attractive so they should get paid more than those with better educations.

Moreover, the overwhelming number of folks making these decisions didn’t feel that people’s attractiveness was influencing them. Now, if this can happen with physical attractiveness, imagine the impact beauty can have. Disciplines such as advertising, marketing, merchandising and retailing contain many examples of beauty’s sublime power.


Series Navigation<< Beauty as Power (Pt 3): AppreciationThe Defensiveness Beauty Triggers At Work Shows Its Power >>

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