The latest issue of Modern Psychology features a front-page story about how human beings really can judge a person based on their face! Here are some choice excerpts:
Nevertheless, it's a statement about corporate dynamics that an appearance of dominance, not warmth, also predicted which faces belonged to the most successful female CEOs. Will Yahoo!'s sweet-looking Marissa Mayer, dubbed "The Hottest CEO Ever," crack the high-WHR ceiling?
For women, competence can also be conflated with comeliness. Shawn Rosenberg, a political scientist at UC Irvine, presented photos of the same woman appearing in two faux campaign photos. In one, she's professionally made up, and in the other she looks dowdy. Regardless of whether she ran as a Democrat or Republican, she won about 56 percent of the vote—a serious margin—when portrayed by the flattering photo.
What does all this mean for those who don't look authoritative, such as baby-faced men?
Women who were less honest in their youth were judged as more honest-looking in adulthood, even if they weren't actually more trustworthy. These ladies could improve their appearance with cosmetics and hairstyle, which—thanks to the halo effect—made them appear more honest. "Dishonest women may be more likely to look honest than dishonest men because [women] have less power to achieve their goals through other means," the researchers suggest.Such insights! Regular people prefer beautiful women who wear makeup! Men seem more powerful when they have strong jawlines! And we can prove this with research!! Wow!! (Sarcasm alert)
What disappoints me the most about this piece is not their unexamined, blind acceptance of biological determinism, their shrug-of-the-shoulders at the rampant sexism in our society, or their assertion that it is biologically "normal" to prefer people who look familiar (i.e., just like our families), but the stupid sidebar about stereotyping.
The Power of Stereotypes
Use them, but do so with care.
How the experts manage their own gut instincts and biases:Racial profiling is bad!! Except when you do it to whole groups of people. Nice, Modern Psychology. Feels like 18th century psychology to me.
"Snap judgments are most useful for dealing with strangers and quick encounters," advises Cheryl McCormick. "We've evolved to err on the side of caution," she says, because it was safer in social exchanges with outsiders—to avoid disease, rejection, violence, unsuitable mates, and so on. "I remind myself that these judgments are good for groups, but they don't have a lot of predictive power at the level of the individual. While we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, we can judge the library by its books."