Physical appearance plays a big role in how we are perceived. On the one hand, there’s the appearance of our body which includes things that are hard to change like our height or facial features and others such as our haircut or the way we are groomed which can be easily controlled and adjusted to make an impression. In addition, there are the adornments which add an additional layer of nonverbal communication. Think of how clothes, jewellery, accessories, and even our scent create an impact on how people perceive us.
There has been extensive research on this subject which unanimously shows how physical appearance and attractiveness are key in the workplace. There are studies showing that are more likely to get hired if you look well-groomed, that good-looking people make about 12% more money than less appealing folks, and that attractive real-estate brokers bring in more money than their less attractive peers.
The “Beauty Premium”
An academic paper published at Harvard, titled “Why Beauty Matters” decomposed the beauty premium in an experimental labor market.The study found a sizable beauty premium which manifested in three main ways. Firstly, physically attractive workers were more confident and as a result they received increased wages. Secondly, for a given level of confidence, physically attractive workers were (wrongly) considered more able by employers. Thirdly, physically attractive workers had oral skills (such as communication and social skills) which raised their wages when they interacted with employers.
In fact, some research has focused on figuring out the specific ROI on beauty. Professor Daniel Hamermesh, a University of Texas psychologist who studies beauty in the workplace, found that a person with above-average looks earning $20 an hour over a 40-year career would earn $1.69 million, while a person with below-average looks would pull in $1.46 million.
Maybe she’s born with it…
When comparing women who wore makeup versus what they look like bare-faced, participants in a 2011 Harvard study viewed the groomed woman as more attractive, competent, likeable, and trustworthy. “When inferring trustworthiness, likeability, or competence from an image, we are influenced significantly not only by the attractiveness of the inherited phenotype but by the effects of the ‘extended phenotype,’ in this case, makeup,” the paper states.
Whether it’s a matter of vanity, preference, or business impact, technology solutions aren’t staying behind and have started offering a range of filters to enhance our appearance. Besides the fun or wacky instagram or snapchat filters, there are solutions like Zoom’s secret beauty filter which subtly improves appearance during video calls. The company describes it as “a softening effect to skin to minimize the visibility of imperfections.
Machine Analysis of Beauty & Attractiveness
It can be incredibly hard for machine learning to recognize and measure attractiveness. The book ‘Social Signal Processing’ explores the opportunities and challenges around automatic analysis of aesthetics. While there are some theories that suggest facial symmetry and skin texture play a key role in identifying human attractiveness – the space is still in its infancy when it comes to research. However, the book suggests there is a growing body of research on automatic analysis on human attractiveness and likeability from human physical cues (facial cues, body cues, vocal cues, etc). The increased growth in interest might be linked to the recent emphasis on idealized physical looks and soaring demand for aesthetic surgery, as well as other application areas such as computer assisted search of partners in online dating services.
While going under the knife of doing radical body changes is not something most people would do, adjusting appearance, grooming, and style is something that shouldn’t be underestimated. The impact that these social cues are able to achieve without saying a word is huge. In addition, it is something that can’t be escaped so we need to pay close attention to them – as they will send a message whether we like it or not.