An investigation of the physical attractiveness stereotype

Date of Completion

January 1999


Psychology, Social|Psychology, Experimental




A structured one-to-one interview was administered to thirty female undergraduates and audiotaped. Later, undergraduate males listened to the interviews and answered a questionnaire about their impressions of the particular woman to whom they had listened. For each interview, four male listeners were presented separately with a photograph and misled to believe that it was a photograph of the woman whose interview they had heard. A 2 x 2, between-subjects analysis of variance design was used to analyze the responses of subjects who listened to an interview and saw a photograph. The two independent variables were the attractiveness level of the woman in the photograph (attractive versus unattractive), and the sequence in which the photograph was presented (before versus after listening to the interview). Dependent variables were six important facets of personality, including likableness, perceived social competence, perceived vanity, perceived integrity, perceived prosocial behavior, and perceived academic potential. ^ The physical attractiveness of the women in the photographs affected men's impressions of the interviewees. However, the impact of attractiveness varied substantially across the range of personality characteristics considered. Also, the impact of physical attractiveness on personality ratings interacted with the order in which the photographs were presented. These findings suggest that the “beauty is all things that are good” conception of the physical attractiveness stereotype is an oversimplification. These results also have potential application for reducing the bias and discrimination that routinely occurs against less attractive individuals. ^ Contrary to predictions, attractive women in the photograph-before-interview condition were not rated as more physically attractive than attractive women in the photograph-after-interview condition. Similarly, unattractive women in the photograph-before-interview condition were not considered more unattractive than the unattractive women in the photograph-after-condition. ^