67 studies relevant for business and career found fairly high agreement about what constituted more and less physically attractive and successful individuals. Agreement was even higher in some ethnicities and cultures and for judgments of children as well as adults.
Successful business and career influence agents
What are those characteristics that ensure success in influencing others? While research suggests that having symmetrical, proportionally balanced features leads to greater attractiveness regardless of culture. Other features associated with beauty include large eyes, a small nose and prominent cheekbones. Langlois and her colleagues also looked across many studies to see whether children and adults judged as attractive would also be seen as having other positive characteristics.
They examined judgments of academic competence, adjustment, interpersonal competence and social appeal for children and for adults and they found across every single one of these dimensions that 75% of attractive children were judge to be above the mean. All valid parameters for an entrepreneur In comparison, only 25% of unattractive children were judged to be above the mean. If attractiveness didn’t matter, both of these numbers should be 50%.
In adults 63% of attractive faces were above the mean and only 37% of the unattractive were judged above the mean. Langlois and her colleagues also examined studies measuring how people treat more or less attractive people. Nothing to do with the business and career environment. What they found is that attracted children and adults are treated more favorably than unattractive ones. Basically they receive more attention cooperation and care from other people.
These results have important ramifications for business and career influence. Attractive agents have an advantage over other people as the targets of their influence will without consciously deciding to do so think positively of them and be more likely to cooperate. An attractive agent is more likely to be persuasive all else equal. Research finds clear differences in how people are perceived and treated based on looks researchers have continued to examine features of agents’ faces.
Judgements of an agent’s trustworthiness matter for entrepreneurs
Research also suggests that in addition to effects of general attractiveness in business or career influencing situations there are other specific facial features that contribute to judgments of an agent’s trustworthiness. Some studies conducted across the UK and US designed a clever study to show how much we trust people with different facial features.
The researchers used a game where people lend virtual money to a partner they see on a computer screen. Participants were shown a face on the computer screen asked to read a bit of text and given a choice of how much money to lend. Each person looked at a few different faces and made a series of lending decisions. What were the results?
The average amount invested in an un-trustworthy face was 44 virtual pounds while trustworthy faces attracted 62 virtual pounds, almost 50% more. Participants were not necessarily aware that they were using this facial information to determine how much they lend. But what happens if people know the past history of the people to whom their lending money?
When given written information on the screen about how the person had behaved in the past had this person given a good or bad rate of return on past lending people lend more money to those with good history, it’s rational, 67 virtual pounds as compared to 21 virtual pounds for those with a bad history. But, if you had a trustworthy face you received a bump of about 2 pounds.
So even knowing a negative past history a trustworthy face makes a difference we just can’t help but be influenced as an entrepreneur or in a business and career environment by how agents look.