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Mirror, mirror on the wall: thinking one is attractive supports inequality

Mirror, mirror on the wall: thinking one is attractive supports inequality

A new study from Stanford seems to indicate that “Thinking that one is attractive increases the tendency to support inequality:”


640px-NAMA_Femme_au_miroir.jpgFive studies tested the hypothesis that self-perceived attractiveness shapes people’s perceptions of their social class (subjective SES), which, in turn, shape how people respond to inequality and social hierar- chies. Study 1 found that self-perceived attractiveness was associated with support for group-based dom- inance and belief in legitimizing ideologies, and that these relationships were mediated by subjective social class. Subsequent experiments showed that higher self-perceived attractiveness increased subjec- tive SES, which in turn, increased SDO (Study 2 and Study 5); promoted stronger beliefs in dispositional causes of inequality (Study 3); and reduced donations to a movement advocating for social equality (Study 4). By contrast, lower self-perceived attractiveness decreased subjective SES, which in turn, led to a greater tendency to reject social hierarchies and to construe inequality in terms of contextual causes. These effects emerged even after controlling for power, status, and self-esteem, and were not simply dri- ven by inducing people to see themselves positively on desirable traits (Study 4 and Study 5).

Social inequality is at the forefront of today’s national consciousness and political debates (Pew Research Center, 2012). Attitudes about inequality not only reflect people’s ideological preferences but also affect how people approach important social issues, such as how public goods should be distributed, how much the wealthy should be taxed, and whether lucrative industries should be regulated.

We propose that when cues suggest to people that they are more attractive, they will espouse more favorable attitudes toward inequality and social hierarchies; by contrast, when cues suggest to people that they are less attractive, they will espouse less favor- able attitudes toward inequality and social hierarchies.

Read more about the study here.

Do you see this in the church? Do we do justice work based on our perception of ourselves?


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Not convinced. One study out of CA — 180 people took an online survey — this really doesn’t mean very much. And Pew did not investigate inequality, but perceptions of class conflict — which is what this blog post seems to be pushing. Sadly.

[NPsmith – please sign your name when you comment – thanks, editor]


I just don’t worry my pretty head about such things. ;-p~~~

No, seriously, this is very interesting. Certainly, in the (execrable) history of White Supremacism, one sees the subjective claim “we’re the fairest (of them all)” *frequently* (often followed by “we must not dilute our fair-skinned beauty via the darker races” anti-miscegenation BS).

Beyond that, I’d love to read some more unpacking, by those w/ prettier (on the inside!) heads than mine…

JC Fisher

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