Chances are you’ve heard about a science-backed theory known as “the beauty premium,” which posits that people who are conventionally attractive get more jobs, earn more money, and are generally viewed as more trustworthy, competent, and intelligent than those who are less attractive. But a new study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology has found that there’s more to the beauty premium than meets the eye.
Researchers Satoshi Kanazawa from the London School of Economics and Political Science and Mary Still from the University of Massachusetts looked at data from a study of 20,000 Americans who were rated on attractiveness at age 16, and then four more times over the course of 13 years.
What the results found was that “very unattractive respondents always earned significantly more than unattractive respondents, sometimes more than average-looking or attractive respondents.” These findings therefore implied that there is “very weak evidence for the beauty premium, and it disappeared completely once individual differences, such as health, intelligence, and Big Five personality factors, were statistically controlled.”
Not that this means there aren’t perks to being conventionally attractive. If anything, it indicates that people who are better-looking cultivate more of the personality traits that would make them desirable for a role. “It appears that more beautiful workers earn more, not because they are beautiful, but because they are healthier, more intelligent, and have better (more Conscientious and Extraverted, and less Neurotic) personality,” the study says.
The study noted that the “very unattractive” sample size was small, and didn’t really explain why people in that category would earn the most. However, Alex Fradera, a staff writer at The British Psychological Study, proposed a theory: “Some of the very unattractive scored especially low on Openness, and were perhaps highly devoted to a specific topic area, pursuing it obsessively to the exclusion of all distractions and eventually entering the forefront of their field.”
Simply put, since the world is an oyster for beautiful people, they may be more likely to pursue several avenues, whereas the “very unattractive” are more likely to doggedly hone their area of interest.
If you, like most of us, are neither drop-dead gorgeous nor astounding hideous, don’t despair about your money-making prospects. Studies have shown that the effects of salary of happiness taper off after $95,000 anyway, and even Warren Buffett has previously said that money can’t buy happiness. Not to mention, being beautiful won’t help you live longer, though these four personality traits definitely will.
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