What your parents told you—“It’s what’s on the inside that counts”—is total BS
Even as kids, we knew that what our parents said about ‘beauty only being skin deep’ was a lie. Putting a big, fat, sucking chest-wound into this parental fable were three researchers from the University of Florida. They did so in a well-cited Journal of Applied Psychology article in 2009, which our curious followers can find HERE.
Their study is notable because it’s longitudinal. That means that they obtained data from the Harvard Study of Health and Life Quality over time. This is kinda important since any research conducted over a period is considered superior than research that captures data at just a single point of time. They had 7 core hypotheses that they tested, but we’re Opening the Kimono only for those that concerned physical attractiveness. And to assess attractiveness of the 200 or so from the Harvard study, they got undergraduates (yes, millennials) and a couple of adults to rate how hot these people were because pictures had to be submitted in the Harvard study. They also captured important variables like educational attainment, self-esteem, income, and financial strain.
Good Looking Equals High Self-Esteem
With the help of a fancy software package, they conducted some structural equation modeling. And to those of us that resemble Brad Pitt or Tom Brady (all here at the Kimono!), we can rejoice. For those that resemble Deadpool without his mask, you got a problem. Specifically, they found that how good looking you are is a pretty damn good predictor of your self-esteem, your educational attainment, and your income. Also, when appearance was pitted against intelligence, it was a rather close race. Intelligence was a better predictor of educational attainment (no, the best looking aren’t at Harvard). But, not only did attractiveness predict some level of educational attainment, it was a stronger predictor of self-esteem than raw intelligence (beauty beats brains!). What’s cool about this study is the finding of both direct and indirect effects. What this means is that resembling Blake Lively will get you higher pay, directly. But, it also affects income indirectly; being good-looking contributes to a better self-evaluation of oneself or higher self-esteem, and the confidence that comes with that, leads to fatter paychecks.
What Does it All Mean?
How does the Kimono interpret these results? With deep sadness. Sometimes, as Tom Cruise once said, we can’t handle the truth. The truth here hurts. Life isn’t fair. If you’re tall, dark, and handsome, you may get fatter paychecks. And, if you don’t look like David Beckham, well…. Own it and work with you got to build self-esteem. Steve Buscemi highly paid too! So, although we may not want to totally abandon the myth that merit matters, other factors are clearly at play. It may not hurt to hit the gym every now and then and put a little effort in to preparing to go into the office.
Blame the Kimono for murdering myths!