Blinded by beauty: attractiveness bias and accurate perceptions of academic performance

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Abstract

Despite the old adage not to ‘judge a book by its cover’, facial cues often guide first impressions and these first impressions guide our decisions. Literature suggests there are valid facial cues that assist us in assessing someone’s health or intelligence, but such cues are overshadowed by an ‘attractiveness halo’ whereby desirable attributions are preferentially ascribed to attractive people. The impact of the attractiveness halo effect on perceptions of academic performance in the classroom is concerning as this has shown to influence students’ future performance. We investigated the limiting effects of the attractiveness halo on perceptions of actual academic performance in faces of 100 university students. Given the ambiguity and various perspectives on the definition of intelligence and the growing consensus on the importance of conscientiousness over intelligence in predicting actual academic performance, we also investigated whether perceived conscientiousness was a more accurate predictor of academic performance than perceived intelligence. Perceived conscientiousness was found to be a better predictor of actual academic performance when compared to perceived intelligence and perceived academic performance, and accuracy was improved when controlling for the influence of attractiveness on judgments. These findings emphasize the misleading effect of attractiveness on the accuracy of first impressions of competence, which can have serious consequences in areas such as education and hiring. The findings also have implications for future research investigating impression accuracy based on facial stimuli.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0148284
JournalPLoS One
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2016

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