The pedestal crumbles

The pedestal crumbles – behavior of attractive people

Good lookers – they’re intelligent, social, and confident. And for us jealous folk, studies have long shown that we have no one to blame but ourselves: We treat the beautiful according to our stereotypes; they develop the behavioral halo we put upon them.

But beautiful people are not what we think, concludes Yale Ph.D. candidate Alan Feingold, overturning one of the cherished notions of psychology. After pouring over hundreds of studies, he finds that our stereotypes and induced expectations don’t shape the personalities of physically attractive people. No matter how high we put them on a pedestal, they are not categorically more confident, intelligent, or social.

Nor are they more confident about their appearance. In studies past, researchers measured attractiveness by having judges rate chosen individuals – their own Miss America pageant. Then the individuals rated themselves, and researchers compared the results. Turns out, judges consistently scored the beauties better than they scored themselves – proving, if nothing else, that good looking people have hang-ups like the rest of us.

If the beautiful are no different in personality from ordinary folks, then why does the stereotype persist? Reporting in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Feingold singles out the media for blame. Very good-looking people are scarce in the real world, but vastly over-represented in TV, movies, and magazines. Not only does Hollywood make all heroines look like sexy fashion models, they’re the only people most of us ever see making love, leading us to think only beauty is linked with sexual warmth. TV and films have even managed to convince us that good looking people are more intelligent – despite all the dumb blondes.

Of note: The beautiful do behave more socially – they date more, are often less lonely, and are more sexually experienced. So we stereotype them as wild party-lovers. But they are not more inherently extroverted. Simply, they’re approached more often. Suitors treat them like royalty; they do what anyone else would do – respond.

COPYRIGHT 1992 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group