People In Society - Essay

1302 words - 6 pages

Critically discuss the main approaches that explain the what is beautiful is good effect. Which one of these do you consider most valid and why?

Introduction
Individuals are faced with many important decisions in life where they are either being judged or judging others. Physical attractiveness plays a significant role in this. When considering the question above, one of the most observed facts in social psychology is the what is beautiful is good (WBIG) effect. This effect relies on the assumption that physically attractive people are superior to others in many other traits, such as intelligence and overall personality (Eagly et al., 1991; Feingold, 1992; Jackson et al., 1995). This effect is highly influential because people often rely on others for information. This theory was demonstrated in a study by Dion, Berscheid, and Waltser (1972). They found that participants rated an attractive female or male shown in a photograph, compared to a male or female of average attractiveness or relatively unattractive male or female, better in terms of various personality traits and predicted that this person would come to live a happier and more successful life. In a meta-analytic review, Langlois et al. (2000) have shown that this effect is robust, as it occurs for child perceivers and targets as well as adult perceivers and marks and is not gender-specific or dependent on how familiar the perceiver is with the target person. It has several significant consequences in terms of how perceivers behave towards a physically attractive compared to a physically unattractive target, e.g., in the areas of interpersonal relationships, job selection and earning potential, criminal justice, and even teacher evaluations. However, meta-analyses by Feingold (1992) and Langlois et al. (2000) have suggested that physically attractive people tend to be more popular and socially skilled. Still, any correlation between physical attractiveness and personality traits or intellectual ability tends to be low and insignificant. Similarly, there is typically no meaningful relationship between physical beauty and people's self-perception and subjective well-being, possibly because attractive people attribute the positive reactions of others to their looks rather than their personality/ability.

There is much debate as to why the WBIG effect occurs. Early explanations, e.g., by Bruner and Tagiuri, were based on individuals having an implicit personality theory of evaluative consistency. Implicit personality theories are networks of assumptions people have about which traits go together and any perceived associations between specific characteristics and how people with these traits will behave. The principle of evaluative consistency assumes that someone with a positive quality (like being physically attractive) has other positive characteristics and someone with a negative trait has other harmful features. A related explanation would be that the WIBIG is an attractiven...

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