First Impressions: Could an Aging, Less Attractive Face Send the Wrong Message?

attractive people have an advantageThose with attractive faces enjoy many advantages. Daily life experiences and scientific studies confirm this. However, a growing body of research finds that those with less attractive faces are unfairly saddled with an even greater disadvantage. In short – an appealing face can increase your popularity and income.  A face made unappealing by heredity or aging can send others the wrong message, make bad first impressions and lessen your influence – and even your income.

As reported in Forbes, economists Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle evaluated three studies and found that good-looking men made 5% more than their average-unattractive salespeople lose saleslooking counterparts. But men who were rated as “quite plain” or “homely” were paid 9% less than average. The effect on women’s pay, while not as extreme, was similar.

Attractive people sell more, according to research conducted at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business. In addition, good-looking people enjoy a real advantage in job hunting and advancement, as shown in “Could Your Looks Affect Your Career?” on this website.

Most have seen that, for some, “beauty is only skin-deep.” A number who could be described as homely are highly intelligent, competent and compassionate. Some physically beautiful individuals are selfish, arrogant and shallow.

Your face – an advantage or disadvantage in making a good first impression

Many social psychology experiments have explored the clear advantage that attractiveness brings. According to influence expert Dr. Robert Cialdini:

Research has shown that we automatically assign to good-looking individuals such favorable traits as talent, kindness, honesty, and intelligence…Furthermore, we make these judgments without being aware that physical attractiveness plays a role in the process.

Often, appearance governs first impressions. University of Texas at Austin researchers Angela Griffin and Judith Langlois showed both adults and children (7-9 years old) high quality facial photos of female college students previously judged to be low, medium and high in attractiveness. After seeing their pictures for less than 5 seconds, subjects were asked to rate the women for various traits.

These fell into three categories:

  • Sociability – popular/unpopular, friendly/unfriendly, makes friends easily/has trouble making friends
  • Altruism – helpful/unhelpful, cooperative/uncooperative, kind/cruel
  • Intelligence – smart/stupid, fast learner/slow learner, gets good grades, gets bad grades

Commenting on the findings, researchers Griffin and Langlois stated:

Unattractive faces were rated as significantly less sociable, less altruistic and less intelligent than medium attractive faces, which in turn were rated as less sociable than attractive faces.

This means that both adults and children formed first impressions that less attractive people were:

  • Less friendly
  • Less popular
  • Less helpful
  • Less intelligent
  • Less kind
  • More cruel

Dr. Griffin and Dr. Langlois summed up their research results:

Unattractive women are at a disadvantage relative to either medium or attractive women. It is more often the case that unattractiveness is “bad” than that beauty is “good.”

What about good-looking faces now suffering the effects of age?

Worried womanThis disadvantage is not confined to those born with unappealing faces. Psychology professors Leslie Zebrowitz, PhD of Brandeis University and Joann Montepare, PhD of Lasell College write of their research on people’s first impressions of those whose faces suffer from the effects of aging:

Impressions of older faces also parallel impressions of less attractive faces, with older faces often perceived as less healthy, cognitively competent [mentally capable], socially powerful, sociable and warm than younger ones.

This is important. Studies persistently confirmed the maxim, “First impressions last.” When meeting someone for the first time in a business setting (sales interview, presentation, management negotiation or job interview) the impression a person makes on their audience can greatly affect the meeting’s outcome.

Businesspeople who look good enjoy a significant advantage (see “Improving your Appearance – Could it Improve your Income?” on this site). They foster first impressions of being more likeable, capable, talented, honest and reliable than others.

business people teamMen and women who fail to maintain their face’s appearance to at least an average level of attractiveness are often seen as falling short in all of these areas, even looking less intellectually competent or helpful. Too often, they could lose out to better looking competitors.

Reasonably-priced procedures to improve face and neck appearance could well be viewed as a necessary cost of doing business. Highly experienced plastic and facial plastic surgeons, like those who contribute articles to LookYounger.News, have a wide range of methods available to restore the kind of pleasing appearance that provides real advantages in business and in life.


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About Larry Rondeau, Managing Editor

Larry Rondeau, Managing Editor at LookYounger.News, is a medical and science writer who is highly experienced in writing about facial rejuvenation procedures, psychology and business. He was mentored by renowned social psychologist, researcher and author Dr. Robert Cialdini, who praised him for his "depth of insight." SUNY Lecturer Peter Pociluyko spoke of Larry's "deep understanding and comprehension of the concepts of social psychology." Larry won 4 national awards while at The Allied Group, where he served as Senior Director of Business Development and later Senior Director of Research and Content Development. ( read more )

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