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Mom Lied! Looks Do Matter! The Science of Superficial Judgments
By Heath Shive
The great entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein once said, “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.”
Rubinstein’s words apply to men as well.
Not all of us are born with the DNA of a bikini model or Adonis, but all of us can work at improving our appearance.
Because all of us will be judged on our appearance.
I read Rubinstein’s quote in a book by Neil Strauss, author of the best-seller The Game – a book about the world of pick-up artists.
Originally, Strauss had been a short, out of shape guy with thinning hair and bad clothes. But Strauss exercised, lost weight, shaved his head for a bolder look, grew a beard to hide his weak chin, and bought trendier clothes.
And his love life improved.
To the science of superficial judgments!
The Great Fudge-Poo Experiment of 1986?
Back in 1986, psychologists Paul Rozin, Linda Millman, and Carol Nemeroff published a hilarious series of experiments on the laws of contagion and laws of similarity.
In one experiment, subjects were offered a piece of high-quality square-shaped fudge. The subjects ate the piece and rated their desire to eat another piece. Then two additional pieces of the same fudge were presented – one fudge piece was shaped like a muffin and the other shaped like dog poop.
The experimenter truthfully told the subjects that the fudge was exactly the same. The subjects rated their desire to eat more of each shape (muffin-shape first, then dog feces), indicated the one they preferred, and were then asked to take a bite from the preferred piece.
The subjects rated their preference on a 200-point scale. A -100 was to describe the worst possible experience, 0 was neutral, and +100 was highest (most pleasurable) rating.
The subjects rated the poop-shaped fudge as 47 points worse than the original square fudge…even though it was the same fudge!
There were more experiments in this study – which should be used in every Psych 101 course – but Rozin, Millman, and Nemeroff made their point.
Humans have an instinct to judge everything based on appearances.
Can any of us change our instincts?
My previous blog – The Science of a Young Black Man in a Suit – discussed the amazing power of a business suit to enhance the social prestige of young black men on the streets of Chicago.
In another blog – The Science of Cars and Sex Appeal – a scientific study demonstrated how a sports car can enhance a man’s sex appeal to women.
Appearances do not change your morality, your ability, your kindness, or your work ethic.
Appearances do change how people treat you.
That’s just reality.
And since we live on world surrounded by 7 billion other people – all of whom will judge us at first based on what we look like – it behooves us to take our appearance seriously.
We may not be able to change our instincts. However, we could try to master them to our advantage.
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Rozin, Paul & Millman, Linda & Nemeroff, Carol. (1986). Operation of the Laws of Sympathetic Magic in Disgust and Other Domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 50 (4), 703-712.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.