While we’re told that people get ahead because of some magical combination of effort, talent, and knowing the right people, research shows that success is partly skin deep.
Studies have shown that you’re more likely to get hired if you look well-groomed, and that good-looking people make about 12% more money than less appealing folks.
The well-groomed thing applies to everyone, not just the conventionally attractive. Even if you’re equipped with a chiselled jaw and perfect physique, if you show up at an interview looking like a sasquatch, you may not get the job.
The fact remains that physical attributes can determine how you navigate the world, because they affect not only how you are perceived, but also your personality.
Per the BBC, a number of researchers have claimed to have found evidence to support this.
One study out of Germany’s University of Göttingen recently reported that of more than 200 men, those who were physically stronger and who had more “macho” bodies – including larger chests and biceps – also tended to be more extroverted, especially in the sense of being more assertive and physically active.
The same strength-extroversion association was not found among the women in the study.
If you are physically weak, you’re less likely to seek out risk, but if you are physically formidable, you can afford to be more of a risk-taker.
One study out of the University of California, Santa Barbara, looked at both men and women and found the usual association between physical strength and trait extraversion. However, the link was noticeably more prevalent among men.
The same study measured attractiveness, finding that more attractive people tended to be more extroverted.
“The present findings demonstrate that a surprisingly large fraction of the between-person variance in extraversion can be predicted from physical strength and physical attractiveness,” the researchers wrote.
Attractiveness and physical strength extend past their correlation with simple personality traits to the social sphere, where they have been found to play a part in determining relationships, and even political views.
For instance, in their research involving hundreds of undergrads, Aaron Lukaszewsk at Loyola Marymount University and colleagues, including Christina Larson and Kelly Gildersleeve at the University of California, found that the men (but not the women) who were stronger – based on a weight-training test – and more attractive were more likely to say that sex without love is okay, and that they could happily have sex with someone without being close to them.
This is a throwback to our more primitive days where males with more robust genes would mate with as many females as possible to spread those genes around.
Then there’s politics.
“Just as physical strength shapes the conflict behavior of other animals in the domains that are important to them (e.g., mating and territorial contests), physical strength appears to shape the behavior of the political animal in this key conflict domain,” the researchers wrote.
For example, stronger, more muscular men were more likely to be against political egalitarianism. The findings for women were mixed, with some finding that strength correlates with a greater endorsement of egalitarianism and others showing the opposite pattern.
These studies are generally localised and based on very specific physical criteria.
We’ve seen conventionally unattractive people succeed in business in ways unimaginable to most of us.
I wouldn’t call Mark Zuckerberg the sexiest man/robot alive, but he’s done pretty well for himself.
In Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, written in 2AD, he remarked that any man could be attractive if he cleaned under his fingernails and kept his nose hairs trimmed.
It’s all relative.
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