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For Real: Beauty IS in the Eye of the Beholder

That's not just an expression! Personality actually affects perceived attractiveness.

By Casara ClarkPublished 3 years ago 5 min read

If only you were better looking, right? Then you’d have the world at your feet!

We hear all the time that more attractive people get more out of life. Even get away with more. Just turn on the TV, see what’s on, and this makes a lot of sense.

But… What does it even mean to be attractive?

What is attractiveness?

How do we measure it?

It’s easy to call the world shallow. Everyone’s obsessing over “Hot or Not” lists and crushing on some Victoria’s Secret model …

Plus, we can't control our looks. So we cry out: "It’s just not fair!"

Here’s the thing though … Studies show that attractiveness IS affected by personality traits.

When we take in a person, we’re never just seeing what’s in front of us, we’re always superimposing tons of information atop a person’s face. Sometimes, that information is fantasy, sometimes it’s based on a conversation with them, but either way, getting to know more of them in any capacity will change whether they’re attractive to us or not.

We can absolutely see a gorgeous model as hideous, just because of something they said or did. And it goes both ways. Someone with unconventional looks (ugly would so be the wrong word here) can become the most desired, physically, because their winning personality gets superimposed to make them look more attractive!

Context matters!

Individuals – both men and women – who exhibit positive traits, such as honesty and helpfulness, are perceived as better looking. Those who exhibit negative traits, such as unfairness and rudeness, appear to be less physically attractive to observers.

That's from a legit study!

  • Blackwell Publishing Ltd. "Personality Traits Influence Perceived Attractiveness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 November 2007.
  • Okay, sure, that's perception. So what’s happening in the brain?

    I don’t think anyone really knows. Our brain is crazy.

    Like … our brain just decides to edit our nose out of what we see every day.

    You see it now, don’t you? Just hanging out right there in the center of your vision… What’s up with that? You never notice it unless someone points it out to you.

    Ow... Photo by Trude Jonsson Stangel on Unsplash

    Our brain actually decides which stimuli will get its attention.

    There are some crazy experiments that support this. Like...

    Change Blindness

    This experiment is hilarious. People came in and filled out a form with a receptionist. That receptionist bent down to put the form away, and a different person stood up to finish the conversation with them.

    The whole point of the experiment was to see — who noticed the change? We would think most would, right? It is a brand new person, after all!

    Plus, the half-receptionists in the original experiment were two men of different heights, different hair colors; they even wore different color shirts...

    Yet 75% of the people in the experiment did NOT notice the difference!

    We often miss large changes to our visual world from one view to the next. We’re often not able to see large changes that would appear to be perfectly obvious to somebody who knows they’re going to happen.

    These changes went unnoticed to people because the stimuli being manipulated weren't chosen to support their brain's spinning narrative at that moment.

    The guy that was preoccupied with time…

    The girl that extensively detailed the plant on the desk...

    They were paying selective attention to the world, essentially building their own reality from everything presented to them. Picking and choosing. And we all do it! The 75% that didn't notice the change AND the 25% that did!

    For the 25%, their reality just happened to include the person they were talking to at that moment. To them, the shift meant something only because it changed their perceived reality.

    What This Means For Attraction

    Our brain picks what to focus on, so it makes sense that attractiveness would change to us based on what other information is presented to us.

    Was anyone as much a fan of Sister, Sister as I was? Or had a friendship with any set of twins in their life? When you first meet identical twins — it seems impossible to tell them apart. I knew a pair of twins in college that were constantly getting mistaken for each other. Obviously, they’re twins!

    But if you’ve ever gotten to know a set of twins (or you just watched Sister, Sister as faithfully as I did...), you know you’ll eventually reach a point where they look so unbelievably different to you. As if one has a mole that the other doesn’t have or something. Or as if one has a totally different jawline... Even if other people don’t notice these differences at all. How is that?

    Well, you’ve gotten to know new things about their "personality" (even if it's a scripted personality), so now your brain takes that data and physicalizes it. The face actually changes (perception-wise, at least). A slightly more pronounced jaw… A rounder cheek… It’s the eyes, the eyes look different!

    There’s no objective difference in their faces. If there were, you would’ve noticed it without needing to know them. But your brain incorporates personality into the face it sees in front of it.

    So, go figure! We actually CAN judge a book by its cover. As long as we read it first. Because if we do take the time to read the book, the cover will end up reflecting exactly what we see inside it…

    Even The Beauty and The Beast has a lot of women preferring the beast to the man. Me, included. Because he's the one we grew to like. And that may or may not have turned us all into furries...

    I notice this "attractiveness change" in my perception all the time while watching television or film. Especially when a certain actor has a lot of hype, so I google them, look at their pictures, and just don’t get it... But as soon as I watch the show or movie that everyone's referencing, I am on that hype train.

    Or how many times do we see a character in a show as super annoying at first, but by the end of the movie/season, we're absolutely in love with him/her?

    Never Have I Ever -- Ben Gross is a PERFECT example

    Now, obviously, in the case of a movie or show, you’re not seeing their actual personality — just the personality that a screenwriter wrote and a director brought to life. But the brain doesn’t know the difference. That’s part of why we love film and television so much.

    The brain reacts the same whether we’re thinking about doing a thing or actually doing the thing.

    In Conclusion

    Take some comfort in knowing that attractiveness really is based on more than just looks. Personality and actions have a large effect.

    No matter what the supposed "base attractiveness" is!

    The findings remained consistent regardless of how “attractive” the individual was initially perceived to be.

    Looks may not matter nearly as much as we think they do!

    Not objective looks anyways.

    So, if you wish you were better looking, good news! Be a good person! And Bam! The people around you will find you better looking!

    And if you’re the most gorgeous person in the world reading this, know that you don’t get a free pass to be a terrible person.

    People will find the flaws in the features they once found beautiful.

    Beauty isn’t objective. And neither is our reality!

    Our brain is just making up our reality as it goes.

    If you enjoyed this article, please share the link, heart it, or leave a tip! And keep it on hand for the next time a troll obnoxiously calls someone you love ugly!


    About the Creator

    Casara Clark

    I was a dark chocolate enthusiast before it was cool.

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      Casara ClarkWritten by Casara Clark

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