Are good-looking men racist

theme - Body The disadvantage of ugly people, according to attractiveness researchers, is possibly the most frequently underestimated of all forms of discrimination. Is it really that bad?

Ulrich Rosar: According to the findings of the studies carried out so far, attractiveness or its absence is one of the main reasons for discrimination. At Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, for example, we look at this in comparison with discrimination on the basis of gender and find that the effect of attractiveness is not infrequently much greater.

How does this discrimination show up in everyday life?

It works from the cradle to the grave. It has been proven that even small children are treated by their environment depending on their appearance. This runs through day care and school: the attractive children are preferred by their peers and are often the leaders. They are encouraged more by parents and educators and then get better grades at school.

For the same performance?

Yes. We carried out a study at a high school in North Rhine-Westphalia with a fifth and two ninth grades. We interviewed students and class teachers, evaluated class books, carried out intelligence tests and looked at the grades. In the end it became clear, especially for the boys, that there is a strong attractiveness effect. In the case of the girls, it was not quite as strong because they received a relatively large gender bonus anyway.

How much does attractiveness influence success in professional life?

Applications with a photo will be considered depending on their attractiveness. Attractive people are more successful at job interviews, as well as at salary negotiations. The performance appraisal is better for them, they are more likely to be promoted and less likely to be dismissed. And employees are more willing to follow attractive managers than unattractive ones.

Daniel Hamermesh, a Texas economist, came up with an average of $ 300,000 that an unattractive adult misses in the course of their working life. Are such numbers plausible?

Absolutely, Hamermesh's research is highly reputable. In Germany, unfortunately, we do not yet have any reliable data that would combine attractiveness measurement and income. But we are definitely seeing the same trend.

"The more attractive a person is, the more positive personality traits are attributed to him"

Good-looking women are more likely to be in work than less good-looking women. The differences are smaller for men. Why?

In Western societies, with regard to participation in working life, because of the traditional distribution of roles, it is not important what men look like because they are expected to be employed. Women, on the other hand, are still leaving their jobs more often, keyword children. Their attractiveness affects how easily they can get back into the job market. Separated from this, however, there is also an interaction between occupational field, gender and attractiveness, the so-called "Beauty is beastly" effect.

How does it work?

The more attractive a person is, the more positive personality traits are attributed to him. But because attractiveness has a lot to do with gender-related attractiveness, gender-related stereotypes are also more strongly ascribed to them: the more attractive women are, the more sensitive, socially acceptable and considerate they are. Men, on the other hand, are assigned more aggressiveness, assertiveness and willpower. If we are in an environment where the latter characteristics are required - for example in management positions - attractive men have an advantage due to the gender stereotype, while attractive women have a systematic disadvantage.

Does that also work the other way around?

Yes. If an attractive woman and an attractive man apply to kindergarten, the man will most likely be left behind. However, most professions have a male connotation. That is why the “beauty is beastly” effect has a negative impact, especially for women.

Are we so in agreement about who or what is beautiful?

Definitely. The saying "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is largely wrong. If we present test participants with portrait photos, which they are asked to rate spontaneously using a scale, the results are totally stable - it makes practically no difference whether you have two dozen test subjects or 10,000.

Why do we favor attractive people?

Psychology speaks of the halo effect: If we perceive a positive characteristic in an object or a person, then we assume that positive manifestations also predominate in all other characteristics. A fundamental mistake in reasoning that we keep getting caught up in and that we also socialize.

By what?

Think, for example, of the fairy tales of your childhood: the princess and the prince were always beautiful, the witch was always ugly. We have been trimmed to give preference to beauty since we were little children.

A spark of life experience is enough to realize that the equation “beautiful is equally good” is nonsense.

Unfortunately, the whole thing works very unconsciously and automatically. Before we have even spoken a word to a person, we form a judgment of attractiveness. In milliseconds, we start a prejudice machine that defines the initial situation from which any potential interaction with this person begins.

What about judgments that you sometimes consciously allow more time for, for example a voting decision?

In the field of politics in particular, we have shown that the physical attractiveness of candidates has a lasting impact on election success. This applies to direct candidates in constituencies as well as to top candidates. And if the objection now comes: “They don't all look good”, then it can be countered that it is enough if they look better than their competition.

Perhaps the feeling is deceptive, but it seems to me that attractiveness is playing an increasing role in politics.

“Today, many voters look less at the content than at the people. Then the prejudice trap takes hold again "

Sure even. In the past, many people voted based on party affiliation. But it goes back. At the same time, the media communication of politics is clearly shifting to the audiovisual media, and they need faces. Many voters today look less at the content than at the people and, not least on the basis of external appearances, try to assess whether they will pursue a policy in their interest and can also enforce it. The prejudice trap comes into play again: You don't know the people and look for characteristics that are accessible to them. Often that is the attractiveness.

So it’s not that far-fetched that Sebastian Kurz’s youthfulness was partly responsible for his election success in Austria?

Correct. A “baby chancellor” who promises a new breath of fresh air after the debacles of the grand coalitions of recent years automatically had great prospects of success.

What can be done about discrimination against less attractive people?

First: education. Most people are completely unaware that they are discriminating in terms of attractiveness. Second: build in security mechanisms. For example, when assessing performance at school or university, one should be aware of the assessment criteria. From my point of view, it would also be important to apply the four-eyes principle and to submit exams to a second person in anonymous form and preferably digitally. I know that is a huge extra effort. But an independent assessment would be helpful, at least on a random basis.

What can you do as an individual?

For example, it helps me to record my impressions immediately - after a seminar, for example. We later remember better and more positively what attractive people have done or said. Writing protects us at least to some extent from this distortion, the so-called memory bias.

What could the state do? Would it help - purely theoretically now - to add to the Basic Law that nobody should be disadvantaged because of their appearance?

I am undecided. In contrast to characteristics such as religious belief, there are certain situations where attractiveness can be a legitimate competitive advantage. For example, it has been proven that attractive people are better salespeople. If you were to write in the Basic Law that nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of their external appearance, this would intervene in a performance competition. One would not write in the Basic Law: Nobody should be discriminated against on the basis of their intelligence - that is largely given by Mother Nature. But there are a lot of measures that the legislature could very well take action. I am convinced that anonymized applications should be made mandatory.

The more detailed the discrimination against less attractive people is demonstrated, the more surprising it is that there are hardly any associations that campaign against this form of disadvantage.

The idea cannot really take off for two reasons. First of all, nobody likes to admit that they are unattractive. Second, it is often a relative competition. It's not about looking like Heidi Klum or George Clooney, but simply a bit better than the immediate competition. We can all find ourselves in this happy position.

Looking worse than the rest can also be an advantage for your own actual performance: You have shown in a study that less attractive footballers kick better than attractive ones. Can that also be applied to other areas?

Yes, we assume that this can be generalized. Less attractive people have to excel through more effort and thereby expand their expertise.

So should employers better choose the ugliest candidate when making their next hiring decision?

Haha. That could be a possible consequence, yes. However, that would then be a negative discrimination against the attractive. Seriously: The important thing is simply to look at the objective performance - regardless of what appearance, ethnicity, gender or age a person has.

Photos: Renke Brandt