Good looks, higher pay

May 15 2009 by Nic Paton Print This Article

We may all like to think we get paid for our ability and because of what we achieve. But the sad truth is good looks and a winning smile count for more than they ought to when it comes to deciding who should earn what.

Ability and results can speak volumes about a person, but confidence and, most controversially, someone's attractiveness can also swing the balance when it comes to landing a good job and top-notch salary, latest research has suggested.

According to a study by academics at the University of Florida people looking for a good job at a good salary can find their intelligence is not be the only trait that puts them at the top of the pay scale.

Looks and confidence can all help job-seekers stand out from the crowd with employers.

"Little is known about why there are income disparities between the good-looking and the not-so-good-looking," conceded study lead author Timothy Judge.

"We've found that, even accounting for intelligence, a person's feeling of self-worth is enhanced by how attractive they are and this, in turn, results in higher pay," he added.

The research has been published in the May issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Applied Psychology.

The study looked at 191 men and women between the ages of 25 and 75 who were interviewed three times six months apart starting in 1995.

They answered questions about their household income, education and financial stresses and evaluated how happy or disappointed they were with their achievements up to that point.

They then completed several intelligence and cognitive tests and had their pictures taken.

Several different people on the research team rated each person's attractiveness relative to their age and gender. The raters were men and women of varying ages, with the authors then calculating an average attractiveness score for each participant based on those ratings.

The researchers found that physical attractiveness had a significant impact on how much people got paid, how educated they were, and how they evaluated themselves.

Essentially, people who were rated good-looking made more money, were better educated and were more confident.

But the good news for all those who have, as it were, "a face for radio" is that the effects of a person's intelligence on income were stronger than those of a person's attractiveness.

"We can be somewhat heartened by the fact that the effects of general intelligence on income were stronger than those of facial attractiveness," said Judge.

"It turns out that the brainy are not necessarily at a disadvantage to the beautiful, and if one possesses intelligence and good looks, then all the better," he added.

Another factor that could play a part is the research showed that good-looking people tended to think more highly of their worth and capabilities which, in turn, led to more money and less financial stress.

For employers and managers one way to get around this subconscious bias towards the more attractive was to rely on objective measures such as personality and ability tests when recruiting people, argued Judge.

"It is still worthwhile for employers to make an effort to reduce the effects of bias toward attractive people in the workplace," he pointed out.

The lastest study is not the first to make the link between salary and beauty and brains, with 2005 for some reason being a bit of a red-letter year for such claims.

In the summer of that year, a poll of 2,000 women by fashion magazine Top Sante found that more than half felt having a better body and being more attractive would help them to climb the career ladder.

At much the same time a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis concluded that good-looking, slim, tall people earned around five per cent more per hour than their less attractive colleagues.

And finally a British survey by consultancy Aziz Corporation reported that more than a quarter of women executives would be prepared to undergo a face lift, plastic surgery or Botox treatments if they thought it would boost their career prospects.