Friday, April 08, 2005

Obvious... but still kinda interesting

Study shows that tall, beautiful, average weight people get paid more. The kicker is that this is true all across the board... in pretty much ever profession. People who are 6'2'' make up 3.9% of the population, but 30% of CEOs. Plain looking people make 9% less money than average looking people and beautiful people make 5% more. However, the only category in which weight really mattered was for white females; statistically, a white female who weights 64 pounds more than an otherwise similar white female will earn 9% less money.

They found evidence of a beauty premium for attorneys that increases with age, at least for the 1971-78 classes.2 Five years after graduating, a male lawyer from these classes with a beauty rating of one rank above average had approximately 10 percent higher earnings than his counterpart with a rating of one rank below average. Fifteen years after graduation, the beauty premium increased to 12 percent. The beauty premium was smaller for the 1980s classes and might be attributed to tighter labor market conditions at the time of graduation. Differences in the beauty premium were found also between lawyers in the private sector and those in the public sector. Fifteen years after graduating, the beauty premium for private lawyers was three times that for public lawyers.
Kinda makes you think... maybe plastic surgery ain't such a bad investment.


At 4/08/2005 08:30:00 AM, Blogger Ed said...

I thought this blog's name was FIGHT THE NORM, not CONFORM TO THE NORM (although the latter is kind of catchy).

First of all, it's always best to actually read the primary literature and determine how well the research was conducted.

Second of all, the article reads "the interviewer who asked the questions also rated the respondents’ physical appearance." Hmmm, so basically the interviewer determined whether the interviewee was hot or not. So whereas some studies concerning beauty measure it in terms of facial symmetry (bestowing to it some sort of legitimacy) this was much more subjective. I see beauty like I see truth. What is it, Sula, Kierkegaard says that truth is subjectivity? Can the same be said for beauty? Just think of the Twilight Zone episode that spouts "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Third, from watching both seasons of Nip/Tuck, I have formed the [highly astute and undisputable] opinion that people turn to plastic surgery as a means for covering insecurities. That is, they cover up a symptom of their pyschological misgivings, not the cause. But hey, man, it's your dollar. If you want to spend all kind of money because you want to give in to societal pressures, be my guest.

At 4/08/2005 06:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think about it this way, Ed... How many people do you see each day that you think are beautiful? 10? 20?? Now think about how many people you see total each day. Unless your answer is between 20 and 40, in which case you're a worthless hermit and should die, the beautiful people are not the majority. I, as a beautiful person, realize this better than most. I'm constantly aware that my Adonis-like good looks alienate me from the C.H.U.D.s that are all around me. I am not the norm. And if these morlocks think plastic surgery will make them more like me, that it will help them to "Fight the Norm", then more power to them.


At 4/08/2005 06:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS. I like how you start of with "read the primary literature" and then slowly devolve to the level where having watched "both seasons of Nip/Tuck" becomes a credential.
In conclusion, you're the man.

At 4/08/2005 07:40:00 PM, Blogger Nippons Boy said...

It's not so much that I want to conform. It's more like... I want a lot of money. If that's conforming, then count me in. Once I'm beautiful and I have enough money to become financially independent, then I can become the eccentric norm-fighting commando dictator that I was always meant to be. If I have any insecurities, then it's because of my remarkably small.. umm.. bank account.

Ok, you might say that beauty is subjective... but I think that using modern statistical data I could roughly approximate what the majority of American females find attractive (besides big bank accounts). I'd probably start with the golden ratio and work from there. Hey, it worked for the Mona Lisa.

At 4/09/2005 12:32:00 AM, Blogger chris said...

Ed, I can't believe you invoked my name--much less Kierkegaard's--in talking about beauty as subjective. (Notice also it's "truth is subjectivity" not "what is true is subjective".)

I think we have a much better chance of explaining beauty as something objective arising out of the non-aesthetic properties of an object or event. Sure, there's some question then as to why different cultures hold different things beautiful, but that can be explained as social upbringing or individual difference (both of which can mask our perception of the properties). The subjectivist, on the other hand, is going to have a much harder time explaining why everyone, say, finds a certain sunset beautiful. Cultural explanations aren't available to him because on his thesis, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

And by the way, I must know why measuring beauty terms of facial symmetry is more legitimate than using introspection.

At 4/09/2005 09:01:00 AM, Blogger Nippons Boy said...

Ok, facial symmetry because there has always been some link between symmetry and beauty. I'm not quite sure why this is, but I'm sure it has something to do with evolution. Anyway, introspection isn't the way to go because it doesn't much matter what I think when my purpose is to effect the way that others think. I think the best way to go about this would be a statistical study about what people find to be attractive (i.e. symmetry, prominent jaw bone, 3:4 ratios, ect.)

At 4/09/2005 09:27:00 AM, Blogger chris said...

You may be right about symmetry and beauty, but you can't explain that by evolution. How could the accidental emergence of a single species affect a relation between between things like symmetry and beauty?

But maybe you meant something like we select for beauty (in making ascriptions and judgements) using symmetry. But then why not just consult what people actually think: ask them to introspect (look inside) and tell you whether something's beautiful or not. (This is all your statistical study's really going to amount to anyway.) Your answer is no better or worse than anyone else's, but it will lose pull when compared to hundreds or thousands of others.

What you're really interested in is what do people think beauty is, or how do they use the word 'beautiful'. You can define anything in terms of anything else, but here, stipulating beauty as symmetry won't get you very far. Better to just ask. And even if you find that most people think symmetry is beautiful, you better be careful how you then measure symmetry. It better be how our eyes and brain "measures" it, not some utopian-scientific Enlightenment crap.

(Anyway, I was trying to bait Ed with the question, but I've already put all my cards on the table.)

At 4/10/2005 10:47:00 AM, Blogger Ed said...

Sula, I said that 'truth is subjectivity.' I was simply referring to your comment to Ron's livejournal post about Fahrenheit 9/11. Then I was asking if we could evaluate beauty the same way we evaluate truth, which is through subjectivity.

Secondly, if you look at any of the primary literature involving beauty and attractiveness, you'll see that they measure it according to facial symmetery. Some pyschological studies show that there is a link between a person's facial symmetry and how many people find that person attractive. To the best of my knowledge, this has nothing to do with evolution. Apparently this is why Halle Berry (supposedly she has a high degree of facial symmetry) is the most beautiful actress in Hollywood. I was just saying that if you're going to measure beauty in a research article, the research will appear more legitimate if you adhere to that standard.

And 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder[s]' does apply to cultural explanations. In the Twilight Zone episode I mentioned, everyone in the world is ugly (according to our culture's standards) and the beautiful people (according to our standards) are shipped off to an island. This means that all the ugly people are really beautiful in their own cultural eye.

Another thing to consider is that we're comparing apples to oranges. Is the beauty of a sunset equivalent, on any level, to the beauty of woman? Perhaps we should just do away with the 'beauty' and say 'attractiveness' when it comes to humans.

Anyway, I was just trying to say that 'attractiveness' is just a matter of perception in the sense that "X is attractive to Y, whereas X is not attractive to Z" and that if any research study wants to get published, it needs a better delineation of what 'beauty' or 'attractiveness is.'

At 4/11/2005 09:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like sunsets.



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