A Big “a” for Attractiveness: How Facial Attractiveness Influence Attribution Formation of the Opposite Gender

Topics: Gender, Psychology, Physical attractiveness Pages: 6 (1498 words) Published: August 24, 2013

A Big “A” for Attractiveness: How Facial Attractiveness Influence Attribution Formation of the Opposite Gender



The experiment was designed to test how physical appearances (particularly that of facial attractiveness) influence males’ and females’ attribution formation of their biological counterparts. Male and female college students (N=30) were shown 3 pictures, that varied in their degree of attractiveness, of the opposite sex. The statistical results produced a support for the first research hypothesis, that females are more likely to give higher positive attributes to good-looking males. However, the statistical results do not support the second research hypothesis, and males would not likely give higher positive attributes to good-looking females. We also found out that males are more likely to give higher positive attributes to simple-looking females rather than good-looking ones. Males also tend to give the most negative attributes to not-so-good-looking females, while females give the most negative attributes to simple-looking and not-so-good-looking males.


A Big “A” for Attractiveness: How Facial Attractiveness Influence Attribution Formation of the Opposite Gender

Ever since Edward Thorndike provided supporting empirical evidence for a psychological phenomenon he termed “halo effect” in 1920, various research have been made to discover its nature, ascertain its influence over an individual’s judgement and determine its effect on interpersonal behaviour. Halo effect, which is generally defined as the influence of a global evaluation on evaluations of individual attributes of a person, is one of the oldest and most widely known of psychological phenomena (Nisbett & Wilson, 1977). Almost ninety-two years’ worth of experimental research has left us with little room to question the existence of an affect heuristic which, whether we’re aware of it or not, clouds our objective evaluation of an individual. In Thorndike’s (1920) pioneer study on the halo effect involving army commanding officers, a strong correlation showed up in the officers’ evaluation of their soldiers—a particular attribute (whether it be positive or negative) started a trend in the overall results of the soldier’s rating. Previous researches have employed two types of stimuli to demonstrate how a general evaluation alters proceeding evaluation of particular attributes. One type involved adjectives rather than persons (e.g., Anderson, 1974; Asch, 1946) and the other used actual persons as the stimuli (Dion, Berscheid, & Walster, 1972; Miller, 1970).


Dion and Berscheid studied the relationship between attractiveness and the halo effect in 1972. Using three pictures of individuals that varied in degree of attractiveness as stimuli, and asking males and females to judge the personality traits and the expected success of the person in the picture, they found that stereotyping based on physical (specifically, facial) attractiveness does occur and affects beliefs about others’ personality and success.

Leaning on previous experimental results of different studies that highlighted errors in an individual’s judgement, we now seek to determine how gender differences come to play when evaluating attributes of the opposite gender. When Landy and Sigall (1974) did a study on physical attractiveness and task evaluation, they found that male college students’ evaluation of an essay allegedly written by an attractive woman was substantially high and favourable than when the supposed writer was an unattractive woman. Although the study was not precisely a study of the halo effect since a single attribute rather than a global evaluation was manipulated and a person’s product rather...

References: Atkinson, R.D. Luce, & P Suppes (Eds.), Contemporary developments in Mathematical Psychology (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Freeman, 1974.
Asch, S. E. Forming impressions of personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social
Psychology, 1946, 41, 258-290.
Kaplan, Robert M. (1978). "Is Beauty Talent? Sex Interaction in the Attractiveness Halo
Effect". Sex Roles 4 (2): 195-204.
Miller, A G. Role of physical attractiveness in impression formation. Psychonomic
Science, 1970, IP, 241-242
Thorndike, E. L. A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology,
1920, 4, 25-29.
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