HR Strange But True!
June 09, 2009

If you ever suspected that employers pay good-looking workers more, you can find confirmation via a study published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology. Still, there's hope for the rest of us who must rely more heavily on our intelligence.

“Little is known about why there are income disparities between the good-looking and the not-so-good-looking,” said Timothy Judge of the University of Florida , lead author of the study. “We've found that, even accounting for intelligence, a person's feeling of self-worth is enhanced by how attractive they are and this, in turn, results in higher pay.”

For the study, Judge and his research team looked at 191 men and women between the ages of 25 and 75 who answered questions about their household income, education, and financial stresses and evaluated how happy or disappointed they were with their achievements up to that point.

They completed several intelligence and cognitive tests and had their pictures taken. The research team also rated each person's attractiveness relative to their age. The authors then calculated an average attractiveness score for each participant based on those ratings.

The researchers found that people who were rated good-looking made more money, were better educated, and were more confident. Still, the effects of a person's intelligence on income were stronger than those of a person's attractiveness. Moreover, the effects of people's sense of self-worth on income are stronger than those of attractiveness and nearly as strong as those of intelligence, according to the study.

“We can be somewhat heartened by the fact that the effects of general intelligence on income were stronger than those of facial attractiveness,” said Judge. “It turns out that the brainy are not necessarily at a disadvantage to the beautiful, and if one possesses intelligence and good looks, then all the better.”

Still, the study's authors note that the findings should be a warning to employers who may subconsciously favor the more attractive.

“It is still worthwhile for employers to make an effort to reduce the effects of bias toward attractive people in the workplace,” said Judge. One good means of doing this, according to Judge, is to rely on objective measures such as personality and ability tests.

Source: Journal of Applied Psychology

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