Good looks can get you a job, promotion and raise

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Brandt-Roessler-Lustin-Style When I was younger, my mom would tell me: “You never know who you may run into, so always be sure to look presentable before leaving the house.” Although it’s rather unlikely that I’d ever coincidentally bump into the President of the United States or an A-list celebrity, appearance is still an important quality to maintain. If not for the sake of boosting self-esteem, taking steps to improve one’s health and image has practical benefits.

Several psychological studies have found that there is value in vanity—literally. Essentially, individuals that are perceived by others as being attractive receive more favorable treatment than others deemed not as attractive. Psychologists have described the phenomenon as a “physical attractiveness stereotype.” We subconsciously stereotype attractive persons as having other, positive qualities not related to appearance, such as confidence, self-esteem, and friendliness.

In particular, one study evaluated the stereotype of trustworthiness applied to attractive persons. The researchers found that, for both men and women, test subjects perceived attractive individuals as being more trustworthy than their “unattractive” counterparts. Participants were shown four pictures— “attractive” and “unattractive” images of each a man and a woman—and asked to rate their trustworthiness on a scale of 0 to 6. The “attractive” man, on average, received a trustworthiness rating of 4.01 whereas the “unattractive” man received an average rating of 3.27. That’s roughly a 15% bonus for the attractive man.

Beyond trustworthiness, taking a little extra time on your appearance may also have an impact on your wallet. An attractive person, on average, is likely to earn a lifetime salary of $230,000 greater than an unattractive person. According to research, attractive individuals may earn up to 10-15% more than their unattractive counterparts. The physical attractiveness stereotype can also lead to a “beauty bonus” in terms of employment and wages.

In this respect, appearance is aptly described as an investment in yourself. As our collective attention spans become shorter and shorter, so does the time it takes to make a first impression. The most recent estimate is that first impressions are made in only 7 seconds. With the narrowing of this window, physical attractiveness and appearance become increasingly more important for the perception of other, non-visual characteristics.

Physical attractiveness, however, is only a “bonus” and cannot serve as a substitute for personality attractiveness. Nevertheless, the “beauty bonus” provides some justification for taking a few extra minutes or investing a little extra money on your appearance. Health, fitness, and beauty are desirable for a long list of reasons; and now, career advantages and economic value can be added to this list.

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Resources: 1 http://www.uwlax.edu/urc/jur-online/pdf/2009/shinners-erinpsy.pdf 2 http://www.payscale.com/content/blog/images/a6a00d8341bf85853ef0168e95cec4e970c-pi.png 3 http://www.businessinsider.com/only-7-seconds-to-make-first-impression-2013-4 Image source: Beau Bumpas