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Agthe, Maria; Spörrle, Matthias and Maner, Jon K. (2011): Does Being Attractive Always Help? Positive and Negative Effects of Attractiveness on Social Decision Making. In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 8: pp. 1042-1054 [PDF, 384kB]


Previous studies of organizational decision making demonstrate an abundance of positive biases directed toward highly attractive individuals. The current research, in contrast, suggests that when the person being evaluated is of the same sex as the evaluator, attractiveness hurts, rather than helps. Three experiments assessing evaluations of potential job candidates (Studies 1 and 3) and university applicants (Study 2) demonstrated positive biases toward highly attractive other-sex targets but negative biases toward highly attractive same-sex targets. This pattern was mediated by variability in participants’ desire to interact with versus avoid the target individual (Studies 1 and 2) and was moderated by participants’ level of self-esteem (Study 3); the derogation of attractive same-sex targets was not observed among people with high self-esteem. Findings demonstrate an important exception to the positive effects of attractiveness in organizational settings and suggest that negative responses to attractive same-sex targets stem from perceptions of self-threat.

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