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Beauty Bias

February 23, 2006

New research may reveal the root of our preference for attractive people.


Biased by beauty. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

This just in…Good-looking people are treated better than unattractive people. OK, that’s not exactly news, but University of Pennsylvania psychologist Ingrid Olson wanted to see just how a pretty face might affect our frame of mind. She and her colleagues showed volunteers pictures of either attractive or unattractive people. After each photo, the volunteers had to categorize an unrelated word as either good or bad.

INGRID OLSON (University of Pennsylvania):
And what we found was that when a pretty face precedes a good word, you’re much faster to categorize it. Meaning that the pretty face affects your judgment: that good things come to mind when you see an attractive face.

In contrast, looking at beautiful homes had no such effect. So it may be that attractive faces have a unique power to create a positive mindset.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.