School can be a cruel environment where attractive students are considered "popular," and unattractive kids often get bullied. Unfortunately, researchers now say that this type of petty behavior continues into adulthood. The study, by Timothy Judge of Notre Dame and Brent Scott of Michigan State University, is the first to link attractiveness to cruelty in the workplace.
In their study, the researchers show that physical attractiveness plays as much of a role as personality in how a person is treated in the workplace. "Our research is novel because it focuses on how coworkers treat attractive and unattractive colleagues," says Judge. "We find that unattractive individuals are more likely the subject of rude, uncivil and even cruel treatment by their coworkers. And, not only do we, as a society, perceive attractive and unattractive coworkers differently, we act on those perceptions in ways that are hurtful."
Considerable research has been done in psychology, management and economics demonstrating that "beauty is good" for labor market outcomes, such as earnings, performance ratings and career success. Attractive people are more self-confident and have higher self-esteem and they are perceived as more intelligent and moral. Research even indicates that seeing attractive individuals puts us in a better mood.
"Given that physical attractiveness is not a bona-fide occupational qualification for most jobs, our new findings are problematic for society," Judge says. "Worse, research reliably shows that we're more influenced by attractiveness than we are willing to admit."
It's a problem with no easy solution, especially given the increasingly visual nature of communication, according to Judge. "Awareness is surely one important step," he says. "If we recognize our biases and are more open and honest about their pervasiveness, we'll be in much better shape to combat the influence."
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Source: University of Notre Dame