Being beautiful doesn't guarantee success

Being beautiful doesn't guarantee success
PHOTO: The Straits Times

More and more people are opting for plastic surgery. Even students, many of them in senior middle school, are opting for it after taking the college entrance examination, believing that by "improving" their appearance, they can increase their competitiveness in the job market.

Experts and the media always warn youngsters who choose to undergo plastic surgery to be cautious and emphasise the importance of inner beauty, or the mind and soul.

But many psychological experiments seem to support the assumption that "good-looking people are more likely to succeed than people with average looks". People believe it is easier for those who look good to get help, higher salaries, promotions and praise.

Evolutionary psychologists tend to interpret this as the eternal competition of "good genes". Other researchers say people generally suppose good-looking people are nicer, more sincere and smarter than "ordinary-looking" people.

A study by the University of British Columbia, Canada, shows that people tend to overestimate the competence of good-looking people.

In a job interview, if a candidate is good-looking, many employers tend to assume he will be good at execution. And according to a London School of Economics and Political Science study, the average IQ of good-looking men is 13.6 points higher than that of ordinary men, and that of beautiful women is 11.4 points higher than the IQ of plain Janes - and the result is not influenced by factors such as family background or health conditions.

Despite this, we cannot conclude that good looks decide everything and that inner beauty is useless.

First, "getting more help" does not equal "success". A several-decades-old tracing study in the United States has recorded a group's family background, mental and physical health, intimate relationships, relationships with offspring, and incomes from their college days till old age.

Its results show that a successful and happy life has nothing to do with status or fortune, but has something to do with "whether you love or are loved". In other words, it is not a good job or good review that decides whether you have a good life or not.

Second, besides the "primacy effect", the "recency effect" also plays a role in influencing one's judgment. First impressions reflect the primacy effect in social interaction, which has a significant impact on how a person is judged.

The recency effect is shown in how people tend to make judgments on the latest information they get. The two effects exist together, which means that a person has countless chances to revise the impression he has made after the first one.

Third, interpersonal attraction does not rely only on good looks. A study found that people generally suppose those with larger height-width ratio faces are more reliable. Another study found the authoritativeness of chief executives' appearances is positively correlated with their companies' performance.

All this research shows that in the complex human social system, people are judged not only by their appearances, but instead have more opportunities to make their lives better.

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