Not just a pretty face

The Economist has a fascinating article on the link between beauty, intelligence and success. It reviews research showing that beautiful people are actually, on average, slightly more intelligent and it’s probably a result of genetics.

The first half of the article looks at the psychological research that has found that beauty, and particularly symmetry, is linked to health and intelligence.

Interestingly, visual beauty is only a clue to intelligence at certain stages in life:

They found that the faces of children and adults of middling years did seem to give away intelligence, while those of teenagers and the elderly did not. That is surprising because face-reading of this sort must surely be important in mate selection, and the teenage years are the time when such selection is likely to be at its most intense—though, conversely, they are also the time when evolution will be working hardest to cover up any deficiencies, and the hormone-driven changes taking place during puberty might provide the material needed to do that.

Nevertheless, the accumulating evidence suggests that physical characteristics do give clues about intelligence, that such clues are picked up by other people, and that these clues are also associated with beauty.

The second half of the article reviews an innovative approach to the effect of beauty by economist Daniel Hamermesh.

He’s found a robust link between financial success and beauty (interestingly which differs across cultures), but has also looked at the cost-effectiveness of using cosmetics and clothing to boost attractiveness.

It turns out, it’s a poor investment. His research study [pdf] found that the financial boost generate by using clothes and beauty treatments only covers 15% of their cost.

Link to Economist article on beauty and success.
pdf of Hamermesh’s paper ‘Dress for Success: Does Primping Pay?’.

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