Do Good Looks Guarantee Success?


With Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in a virtual dead heat going into tomorrow's key Texas and Ohio primaries, rapper and actor Mos Def shares his theory as to why Obama has a pretty good chance of winning by more than just a nose: His whole handsome face.

"When I saw [Obama] on the cover of Men's Vogue, I said, 'This guy's gonna win because he looks good,’" the rapper recently told Rolling Stone. "America's too vain, and [Obama] appeals to America's sense of vanity. People also want a rock-star quality to the president, which he has."

Mos Def 's comments may not be far off.  Style is often thought to be more valuable than substance, says Gordon Patzer, author of the new book LOOKS: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined. “Physically attractive people are perceived to be more likable, more intelligent, more trustworthy, and more of an expert in their field,” says Patzer. And while beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there are objective determinants on which physical attractiveness can be judged; height, hair and weight. America has not elected a president who is under the national height average of 5 feet 9 inches, since Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and has not elected a bald president since Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. So far so good for Obama. He is 6 feet 1½ inches, has a full head of hair, and he loves playing basketball.

Physical attractiveness can also be a boon in the business world. “People who are tall are literally looked up to, and more likely to be influential,” says Patzer, who adds that the average CEO is 6 feet tall. Meanwhile, a recent University of Pittsburgh survey reports that their tallest student’s average starting salary was 12% higher than that of their shorter colleagues.  

According to Patzer, good looking people are more likely to be hired, promoted, and receive a higher starting income. Daniel Hamermesh author of the study Changing Looks and Changing “Discrimination”: The Beauty of Economists says, when all other factors are constant, in the U.S. men in the top third of looks will earn about 5% more than the majority of men in the middle looks-wise. The least comely, those in the bottom 15% of looks, will earn about 10% less than those in the middle. (For women the differences are similar, but somewhat smaller.)

Even the employers of pretty people do better. Hamermesh’s studies suggest that companies that hire good looking people tend to turn a higher profit. Why? According to Patzer, lookers are more inspirational. “People are more willing to do things when asked by someone of high physical attractiveness, than someone of low physical attractiveness,” says Patzer.  

But getting ahead in business does not necessarily meaning rushing out to the plastic surgeon before your next big meeting. Instead, just dress your best. “Simply dressing well will improve not only how a person feels about himself or herself but also how others perceive them," says Patzer. "It raises a person’s self-esteem.”


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