The Attractiveness of Individuals and the Effect on Perception of Associated Personality Traits.

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The Attractiveness of Individuals and the Effect on Perception of Associated Personality Traits.

Curtin University of Technology
Dion, Berscheid and Walster (1972) hypothesized that “what is beautiful is good” and that attractive people were assumed to lead happier lives and have better prospects for the future. A survey was carried out among university students and their friends to determine whether attractiveness of facial features of an individual influences one’s perceived associated personality traits. The 425 participants completed the FPS 120 Impression Formation Project survey and data was collected and analysed. It was discovered that a strong positive correlation existed between levels of attractiveness and sociability, friendliness and trustworthiness. This research study has attempted to apply Dion et al’s study of “what is beautiful is good” to the modern era and to determine if a halo effect for personality stereotyping is still applicable.

This research was conducted to ascertain whether the study by Dion, Berscheid and Walster (1972) was still valid in modern day society and whether the stigma of “what is beautiful is good” still holds true. Dion et al predicted that attractive people “were assumed to have better prospects for happy social and professional lives”. Dion et al tested their hypotheses by asking men and women to examine three photographs and rate them along a number of dimensions. Half received photographs of women who varied in physical attractiveness and the remainder received pictures of men (Berkowitz, 1974) It was discovered that there was no discrimination between males and females to the participants, who still rated attractive people of both sexes to most likely possess all the personality traits that were socially desirable. It is apparent in their study that the thesis of beauty and its correlation to positive attributes is supported by a social stereotype. “Not only are physically attractive persons assumed to possess more socially desirable personalities than those of lesser attractiveness, but it is presumed that their lives will be happier and more successful” (Dion et al, 1972). In a comparable scenario, our stereotypical tendencies follow through into other aspects in the sense that we tend to see good people do good things, bad people do bad things, good companies make good products and so forth, leading to distortions from the truth (Webb, 1999;Emslie, 1979).For example a positive rating in one area, in this case attractiveness leads to an over generalisation resulting in a more positive rating to other attributes such as desirable personality traits. This positive transfer is called the halo effect. The well established information of which the halo effect is based is weighted more heavily than new information that is provided to us and thus the halo effect operates best when the established information or attitude is strong and new information is to an extent ambiguous. “When the established attitude is not particularly strong or the new information is more strongly positive or negative, the halo effect is not as strong.” (Webb pp 98, 1999) This halo effect correlates to Dion et al’s study on attractiveness, as the physical attributes of a person is generally the first point of origin for a meeting between two individuals. Upon meeting, the halo effect allows the individual to rate the attractiveness of the other individual creating a cognitive bias as one positive trait extends to influence other qualities of that person. Although previous studies conducted focused on the investigation of attractiveness in relation to personality traits where beauty equated to positive qualities, this research paper will be examining individual traits specifically. The aim of this current study is to explore whether (1.)attractive people are rated more sociable than unattractive people (2.)whether attractive people are rated friendlier than unattractive people; and...
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